“Cold in July” – Jim Mickle does it again.
Written by: Nick Damici (based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale)
Directed by: Jim Mickle
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, and Vinessa Shaw
Jim Mickle (“We Are What We Are”, “Stakeland”) comes through with his third consecutive quality film with “Cold in July”. Here, he presents his audience with a twisty, turny neo noir set in 1989 Texas. The movie begins with a middle of the night home burglary attempt in which husband and father Richard Dane (Hall) shoots and kills the intruder. He spends some time dealing with the psychological toll this has on him and his family, but then more bad news comes.
The local police inform Richard that the deceased criminal’s father has just been released from prison on parole. Soon after, the father Ben Russel (Shepard) shows up, in the mood for revenge, but not all is as it seems and the two men get much more than they bargained for. They each much decide how to proceed, when they discover that everything they thought was a lie, and there is foul play afoot.
Hall and Shepard both give truly great performances, as expected. Every scene between the two perfectly builds tension, and neither actor misses a beat. It is Don Johnson who steals the show though, as the private investigator/ pig farmer who Russel calls on for help when he decides to find out what is really going on. Johnson is perfect in a very dirty, grimy, hilarious way and is the perfect comedic tough guy addition to the seedy, unsettling vibe of the film.
The pacing of this movie hardly let’s you catch your breathe, but that is a good thing. You get to go on a crazy, violent, vengeful roller coaster ride. Who could ask for more? Mickle, as always creates an incredibly effective atmosphere. You feel like you have really been transported to 1980s Texas. I especially loved (and got a good laugh out of) Michael C. Hall’s mullet!
Some people will take issue with the fact that the movie has some story lines that are not ironed out by the end, but that is how pulp works, You go along for the ride (and it is a fun one) and don’t ask questions. If you can manage to do that for two hours, then you will enjoy this film. If you are the type who needs an answer to every question, I might look somewhere else. I loved it though and would place it solidly in my top 10 of the year so far. I cannot wait to see what Mr. Mickle does next.