“I think I heard something,” said Richard Dane.
Frankly saying, I hate to say that the genre-bending writer/director, Jim Mickle with his co-writer, Nick Damici (We Are What We Are), are making a sharp turn in their latest collaboration—a sleazy Southern thriller adapted from Joe R. Lansdale’s novel, Cold in July. In We Are What We Are, Mickle “invented” brains in a gory thriller with accentuation on details. In Cold of July, Mickle’s indie-aesthetic touch is still palpable, but it might be out of place in this too-knotty-web-to-trace piece of work; it makes the movie a pile of different things to enjoy.
To begin with, Cold in July is strangely not a straightforward revenge thriller as it looks initially. It begins with a slip of a fate, Richard Dane (Michael C. Halls of Dexter with perfect 80s mullets) kills an intruder to defend his family. Things gone south when the intruder’s father (Sam Sephard) comes with a real menace—threatening to kill Richard’s son. This revelation marks the first phase: the hide-and-seek in July.
Then, from the middle of nowhere, comes a hoary private investigator (Jeff Bridges) revealing about some bewildering conspiracy involving police, mobsters, and the son of Ben Russel (the intruder’s father). The bewildered, unprepared Richard gets deeper into crime and corruption without knowing what’s it to his life—motivation changes, plot changes, and so does the antagonist. So, the fine line between who’s friend and who’s foe gets blurred as this instant trio entangles into a greater issue with their own motivations. That’s the second phase: Conspiracy in July.
Along with those three Southern badasses’ converse, piles of twist gets unraveled one after another, until one ultimate twist—involving snuff porn business—concludes everything. And that is: Conclusion in July.
All three parts/phases/episodes in Cold in July are mesmerizing; they’re well-shot, well-acted, and well-scored (homage to John Carpenter, they say). The thing is, those three parts lack of coherence; they’re barely well connected. You can recall The Place Beyond The Pines or Pulp Fiction for comparison, unless, it has no clear, slick port to link one another, and serves as three separated stories which happen to be experienced by the same characters. Instead of making it more solid in storytelling, Mickle too many details in some highlighted events.
The good things are: with such narrative, we can never know what will happen following scenes; with the details, some important scenes are intense and gripping; and, of course, Mickle’s traditional gore-ntertainment is accommodated. Yet, the bad thing is: the pace of the film is super slow and there’s no depth in characters; although Shepard and Bridges’ solid performances as grizzled dickheads are so plausible, while Michael C. Hall convincingly portrays his favorably lame character here.
For a revenge gone awry movie, Cold in July is too prolix—too much rambling—although the result is a clever, Southern thriller that feels south and feels dirty. Just save for the movie’s fun, gory, and excessive finale, and you’ll find the joy, but still fails finding the reason why cold in July.
Cold in July (2014)
Crime, Mystery,Thriller Directed by: Jim Mickle Written by: Jim Mickle & Nick Damici based on a novel by Joe R. Lansdale Starred by: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson Running Time: 109 mins Rated R for disturbing bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity