By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
This country fried noir of a film features a superb cast delivering remarkable performances, but has little else to offer. Well, to be fair, the movie does have some lovely tense, edge-of-the-seat moments, but the reasons why the characters are in these situations and their motivations for their involvement raises several questions. If one considers the logic and the realism of these scenarios, then this film’s story really does fall apart. Cold in July attempts to slow burn a gritty tale in our cinematic memories, but the foundation of the story is all wrong.
Michael C. Hall (Dexter) stars as Richard Dane, a frame store employee finds himself involved in a law enforcement conspiracy after accidentally shooting an intruder in his home. After the incident, Hall gets harassed by the intruder’s father, an ex-con named Ben Russell (Sam Shepard). The more Richard learns about Ben, his late son Teddy, and their past, he begins to realize that police officer Ray Price (Nick Damici) may be covering up a much more complicated situation.
Based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale, actor/screenwriter Nick Damici and director Jim Mickle offer a film that raises important questions, but doesn’t answer them satisfactorily. Mickle presents his story in style and has an obvious love for 80s movies, particularly those of John Carpenter. The synthesizer-heavy score by Jeff Grace definitely indicates this. Mickle proves himself to be a talented filmmaker, but has a lousy plot hole-ridden script that defies all human logic. Suspension of disbelief doesn’t even cover the flaws of this film. This requires a whole new level of cerebral shutdown.
The only reason I’d recommend this film, aside from the stylistic presentation, would be for the performances of Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson. Johnson delivers a particularly badass performance as Jim Bob Luke, a private detective and friend of Ben Russell hired to investigate into the police’s involvement in Teddy Russell’s death and he discovers exactly what they are covering up. Looking like a Texas country singer-turned pimp, Don Johnson is an absolute joy to watch in this cool and delightfully gaudy role. Fans of Dexter will also enjoy the performance of Michael C. Hall, who plays a totally different kind of character here. Hall portrays the nervous and flustered Richard Dane superbly. The character is absolutely out of his element once he gets involved in the dark and sinister aspects of the story. Sam Shepard is a absolute natural as the cool, quiet and intimidating Ben Russell.
It’s a shame that this film has these wonderful performances, but has such a frustratingly nonsensical script and story. It is also a shame that Jim Mickle brought a fun and cool style to the film, but unfortunately gets wasted on this story. The movie is currently playing on VOD and will open for a limited run at the Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline in Austin. My recommendation, though, is to wait until this film is on Netflix or cable/satellite. I would not recommend wasting money on this head scratcher of a film.