Cold in July,
directed by Jim Mickle
(IFC, 2014)

Cold in July starts out with a basic revenge thriller plot; however, right from the start you can feel that the atmosphere is different. The movie is dark and gritty, and the only word that comes to mind is "pulp." Of course, that makes sense because it is adapted from a pulp novel with the same title by Joe R. Lansdale.

The setting is 1989, East Texas, and it is portrayed very well -- from the clothing to the cars, it feels like what 1989 looked like. The soundtrack is also unique and interesting, it is a sort of '70s-'80s club techno mix that is never bombastic or overpowering, but always welcome. The soundtrack is sort of a low-key Drive soundtrack.

Michael C. Hall, of Dexter and Six Feet Under fame, plays main character Richard Dane, a father and husband who shoots an intruder to death. However, shooting the intruder causes more harm to his family then he imagined, as the intruder's father begins to stalk and threaten his family. This plot line, however gets resolved rather quickly, within about 50 minutes, and the story afterward becomes not only more unique but much more interesting. Afterward, Dane uncovers secrets to the case that cause him to question who is good and who is bad. The rest of the story follows police conspiracies and ends in a very well-done gory -- necessary -- ending.

The plot is great and you can tell that it is adapted from a novel. The story is multi-layered, from its characters to the plot, and even to simple gestures that characters do. From one character's revenged-filled thoughts to another who acts out of loyalty, and another who simply is tired of his suburban routine, these characters feel real, and it is easy to empathize with them. Don Johnson and Sam Shepard give the standout performances, playing their characters with such authenticity that you feel as though the roles were made for them. Johnson plays a cop who is an old friend of Shepard's character, a convict who seeks revenge for his son's killing.

There were only two discernible weaknesses in the movie. One is the pace; the movie moves rather slowly and sometimes you find pauses in the movie which you must fill. However to me, this doesn't seem like a big weakness; while it gave space for the viewer's mind to wander, it also allowed the viewer to digest what happened. The next weakness is a personality switch with Shepard's character, and whether this indicates lazy writing or further proof that his character's revenged-filled thoughts dominate him, I can't tell. So even the weaknesses of this movie can be seen as strong points, depending on your perspective.

Cold in July is one of the better movies I've seen in a very long time. The acting, plot, setting and music are all done expertly and I don't believe they could have been improved. I would recommend this movie to any fans of pulpy dark mysteries; I think it is a standout of 2014.

review by
Vlady Kozubnyak

20 September 2014

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