“Cold in July” Review

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Cold in July

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

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Mike Mike has a degree in Film from The University of Texas at Austin. He has worked in the entertainment industry for the past 25 years and sees two to four new movies in the theatre a week. Mike has a weekly movie blog where he reviews films both present and past at:

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Cold in July

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

“Cold in July”

A young wife, Ann (Vinessa Shaw) is awakened at home by a noise.  She wakes her husband (Michael C. Hall), telling him “I think I hear something.” The husband, Richard, very nervously loads a handgun and then proceeds to find an intruder with a flashlight in his den. Richard tells the man to stop, the man moves and Richard shoots him, killing the man with one very unsteady shot.

CIJ_STILL-345

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

It turns out the burglar is a known felon who has a long track record of committing crimes. The police determine that Richard will not be charged with anything as he had the right to defend his family from attack. The dead man has only one known relative, his father who has just been released from prison himself. The family tries to get back to normal, getting rid of the blood spattered furniture and cleaning the carpet. They go back to their ordinary life in the small Texas town, Richard with his frame shop, Ann teaching school and their young son in kindergarten.

Cold in July

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

But things don’t go back to normal. Richard learns that the father of the dead man, Russel (Sam Shepard), might be heading to their small town. Soon after, Richard gets a phone call where the person on the other end doesn’t say anything. Richard, feeling guilty over the killing, goes to the dead man’s funeral and meets the father, who menacingly mentions what a nice young boy Richard has.

Thus begins director Jim Mickle’s suspense filled cat and mouse game of a film that has a significant twist that I didn’t see coming. Writer Nick Damici has brought us a world where Richard from the start of the film is out of his elements. After he has shot the burglar, one of the characters in the film remarks that “he didn’t think he had it in him.” Richard is a family guy, used to dealing with mowing the grass and having to go to PTA meetings, not dealing with ex-cons who threaten his family. Cinematographer Ryan Samul, keeps the suspense going with creating a 1980’s Texas neighborhood that seems to change very quickly from a nice family neighborhood, to one that contains numerous shadows that give criminals a way to get to your backdoor.

Cold in July

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

The strength of this film is its cast. Michael C. Hall gives an incredible performance as Richard, a man  struggling to keep his family safe.  It’s a multilayered performance that shows Hall’s versatility.  Sam Shepard is perfect as the father who has revenge on his mind. Shepard fills the screen with a man who is wound way too tightly and could explode at any moment. Vinessa Shaw isn’t asked to do much other than play the supporting wife who cares deeply about her family. Easily, my favorite part in this film is the role played by Don Johnson. Johnson plays an outlandish private detective who wears ten gallon hats (white, of course,) and drives around in a country music blaring convertible that’s as big and bright as the western shirts he wears. This is a role that Johnson can run with, and boy does he, delightfully chewing up scenery. His boorish P.I. makes an excellent contrast to the reserve Richard and the quiet, slow talking Russel.

“Cold in July” is a superb suspense film that will keep you guessing till the end, with a cast that will make you want more. It also has an ending that will certainly be talked about in the movie theatre parking lot after the film.     My Rating:  Full Price

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again  

“Cold in July” is playing exclusively at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema

“Cold in July” Website

 

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