Cold in July

Cold in July
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Opening with the death of a young unarmed burglar who is shot by family man Richard Dane-Michael C. Hall-, this film moves along conventionally enough for the first third of its duration. Cleared of any wrongdoing, a little too willingly, by the local sheriff Dane starts to feel threatened by the alleged dead man’s father Ben Russell-Sam Shepard- who has only recently been paroled himself. Out for vengeance on his son’s killer he starts to stalk and threaten Dane and his family until the authorities apprehend him and claim justice will be done.
At this juncture the film takes a left turn and moves into less familiar territory which opens up a whole different story line.
Enter into the fray Don Johnson as a sunny, charismatic private detective Jim Bob Luke who reveals a tale even more sinister than the killing of Russell’s son and its subsequent outcome and then the film moves off in yet another direction.
Ambitious in its story line unfortunately it does not quite live up to its premise and rather than being nail biting on the edge of your seat tension it all starts to feel a little try hard, overly clever and more than a little self conscious.
Director Jim Mickle manages to coax admirable performances out of Shepard and Johnson but this merely exposes Hall’s leading role as somewhat unconvincing and underwhelming .This is a pity as Hall is capable of so much more as he usually inhabits his characters thus giving them an extra dimension missing from his performance here. Sporting a bad mullet which is supposed to help us believe the 1989 setting does little other than remibd us how a bad haircut can add or detract from a performance. In this I am referring to Javier Bardem’s contender for the worst haircut ever in a movie in the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men wherein the haircut was as malevolent as his character. Unfortunately Hall’s mullet does not have a similar effect and instead just makes Dane appear wimpy rather than balanced.
Cold in July is not a particularly bad film however and it does have its moments but unfortunately they are not often enough and they are never pursued with the right amount of skill to create a convincing thriller which actually thrills. It feels flat far too often and by its conclusion I was hardly bothered by what happened to anyone-good or bad- as my interest had long since waned.

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