COLD IN JULY (2014, BSM Studio, 109 mins, Colour, 2.35:1, DTS/Dolby Digital, Cert: 15, Crime Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: Michael C. Hall (Richard Dane), Sam Shepard (Ben Russell), Don Johnson (Jim Bob Luke), Vinessa Shaw (Ann Dane), Nick Damici (Ray Price), Wyatt Russell (Freddy), Lanny Flaherty (Jack Crow), Rachel Zeiger-Haag (Valerie), Brogan Hall (Jordan Dane).
Producer: Linda Moran, Rene Bastian, Adam Folk, Marie Savare; Director: Jim Mickle; Writer: Jim Mickle, Nick Damici (based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale); Director of Photography: Ryan Samul; Music: Jeff Grace; Film Editor: John Paul Horstmann, Jim Mickle; Production Designer: Russell Barnes; Art Director: Annie Simeone; Set Decorator: Daniel R. Kersting; Costume Designer: Elisabeth Vastola.
Mickle’s adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s novel wears its cinematic influences on its sleeve. There are strong echoes of Sam Peckinpah in the bloody violence and of John Carpenter in the tense opening and with the use of an electronic score echoing Carpenter’s classic scores.
Set in 1989, Hall plays an everyman who shoots an intruder and then is shadowed by the intruder’s father, played by Shepard, who is an ex-con. What at first seems like a re-tread of CAPE FEAR, turns on its head about mid-way as the plot twists and turns. At this point Johnson arrives on the scene as a pig farmer cum private detective and he, Hall and Shepard make an unlikely threesome.
The shifting plot focus keeps us on our toes, as the movie moves from a tense thriller to a more straightforward tale of vigilantes. The action is bloody and brutal but stops short of the excesses of a Tarantino. There are some unresolved plot points too, but the obvious enthusiasm of Mickle and his crew compensates, notably through Horstmann’s tight editing and strong performances by the leads. Shepard exudes quiet menace, whilst Johnson has the best witty lines. Hall is excellent as he slowly gets sucked into Shepard and Johnson’s world.
It doesn’t quite rank alongside NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, but this Texas-based crime thriller has a few tricks of its own and is a very entertaining ride.