Cold In July

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Director: Jim Mickle.
Screenplay: Nick Damici, Jim Mickle.
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell, Bill Sage, Brogan Hall, Kristin Griffith, Ken Holmes.

“Well, boys, it’s Howdy Doody Time”

Jim Mickle is not a director who’s name you might instantly recognise but he’s one that’s been chipping away at career for himself. Along with writing partner Nick Damici, they’ve delivered some relatively successful, low-budget horror films over the last few years with Mulberry St, Stake Land and a remake of the Spanish film We Are What We Are. With Cold In July, they’ve delved into a different genre altogether but, again, the results are quite impressive.

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In 1980’s Texas, an intruder breaks into a home and awakens family man Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) who shoots and kills him. After an investigation by local Policeman Ray Price (Nick Damici), it’s more or less a closed case and Richard is allowed to continue as he was. However, the intruder’s father (Sam Shepard) is looking for retribution and begins to haunt Richard and his family which opens up all sorts of new information and how the intruder could have been a set-up, which draws Richard further and further into a dark underworld.

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Based on the pulp novel by Joe R. Lansdale, there’s much to admire in Cold In July’s feel for Texan noir. It’s reminiscent of the likes of Jim Thompson’s After Dark, My Sweet or The Killer Inside Me in driving us down the dirt roads of seedy underworld gangsters and their depravity. Nothing is what it seems and that’s exactly the appeal. What begins as a random act of self preservation soon becomes a quest for the truth and vigilantism. Despite sporting a questionable mullet, Dexter and Six Feet Under’s Michael C. Hall carries the film very well but he’s aided immeasurably by two old hands in Sam Shepard and Don Johnson. The latter doesn’t appear till half way through the film but with his cowboy hat and his Cherry-red convertible, he injects real energy into the proceedings. Up until then, director Mickle had been tightening his grip steadily and deliberately with his honing of some impressive moments of brooding tension and utilising Jeff Grace’s John Carpenter-esque synthesiser score to great effect.

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It’s certainly not without faults; plot strands are left unresolved or discarded entirely and the progression of our main character from doting family man to vigilante, stretches credulity. However, there’s enough style going on to allow you to forgive its shortcomings. If, like me, you’re a fan of trashy pulp noir then this should go down like a neat little shot.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: The author of the novel Joe R. Lansdale, appears briefly at the beginning of film as a priest at the graveside.

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32 Responses to “Cold In July”

  1. Love the writing Joe Lansdale. Will be checking this out, for sure. Fine write up, Mark.

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  2. Sounds good!!

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  3. Been meaning to catch this one for a while, looks really good. Loved We Are What We Are, very solid flick.

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    • It’s a good film, Ryan. I wasn’t overly keen on how plot strands were left entirely adrift but I still have to credit it, where it’s due. Very admirable little Texan-Noir that’s somewhere between The Coens and John Carpenter. Not up to either of those standards. But good nonetheless.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love Michael C Hall. Bring back Dexter 😦

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    • Michael C. Hall is certainly shaping up well, bro. Although, I have to admit that I gave Dexter a go after Breaking Bad and couldn’t quite get into it. Is that bad? Should I try again? It seemed tame and cheap in comparison to Breaking Bad.

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      • I havent seen Breaking Bad…….I own them all so I will. For me, Dexter is unbelievable. Goes slightly downhill from season 5 onwards, but what show can stay amazing for 8 years? Blood, sex, humour, its got it all!

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      • I’ll really need to give Dexter another go. I love the idea of the whole thing and it always sounded great but I just gave up after about 3 or 4 episodes. It didn’t grab me at all.

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  5. Baha! That mullet stretches credulity more than anything!! 😉

    I really can’t wait to see this one man, sound review. It appears my thoughts (and concerns) are shared here.

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    • Haha! Mullets are so 80’s! 😉

      Cheers Tom. Much like one of your bite-sized reviews, I kept it concise. I actually wasn’t even going to write it at all but it had some qualities that deserved a mention. Decent little noir!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh!!! Good call on bringing up the BSR thing. . .I know you mentioned it only in passing. But funny enough, I think you are well aware now that Tyson has been calling you out behind your back on my blog about when you were ever going to step up to the challenge of reviewing something for that feature. He’s been wanting to pair up with you forever just to take a swing at you!!!! 😉 😉

        (But please, feel no obligation. But feel peer pressure, by all means. 😀 )

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      • Hmmm…. I sensing a little BS here and it’s not Bite Sized 😉

        Although, I wouldn’t put it past Tyson to talk behind my back. The man has no morals and avoids saying things to my face. However, I might contribute to BSR when I’ve found my feet again! 🙂

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      • haha. Yeah, Tyson is absolutely a-moral. 😛

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      • Fuckin-A 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Sounds like a fascinating and gripping movie, great write up Mark.

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  7. Hadn’t heard of this mate. Sounds like the kind of thing I’d like, despite the flaws, so I’ll look out for it.

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    • You’ll notice quite a few flaws, Stu but its still worth a watch. With little thrillers of this kind, I can often overlook it’s problems. Some were glaring but I have to admit to still liking it.

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  8. jackdeth72 Says:

    Cheers, Mark:

    You had me at Joe R. Lansdale. Been a fan of his since his early Sci-Fi and horror novels and novellas. And this film has hard scrabble Texas Noir writ large all over it.

    Also be kind of cool to see Sam Sheppard as a conniving bad guy.

    Nicely done!

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    • Cheers Jack!

      Yeah, like I mentioned to Michael earlier, I’ve never read any of Lansdale’s stuff but the genre is something I love (and sci-fi). I’ll definitely be checking him out. This was a good little flick and Shepard was strong throughout. As were Johnson and Michael C Hall.

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  9. daveackackattack Says:

    Your review prompted me to finally watch this. Good flick. Loved the score. The music reminded me more of 80’s Michael Mann (Thief, Manhunter) than John Carpenter. Nice to see Michael C. Hall breakout in something other than Dexter or Six Feet Under. The mullet was certainly memorable. Haven’t seen Sam Shepard in anything of note in forever. Like maybe since The Right Stuff. It reminded me of Blue Ruin a little bit if you’ve seen that. Other than the Coens it also reminded me of something John Dahl might have directed (Red Rock West, The Last Seduction, Kill Me Again). Coincidentally Dahl directed a ton of Dexter episodes. Yeah Mark, I agree with you, I couldn’t watch Dexter much past the promising first season.

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    • Glad to hear you still take my opinion on board, Dave. 😉

      I can see where you’re going with the scores of earlier Mann movies but I just couldn’t get Carpenter out my head.

      Totally agree on John Dahl. He was delivering some tight little movies at one point. Loved his stuff but I haven’t seen a good flick from him in a while. It would seem that Tv is where he’s landed now.

      I have seen Blue Ruin. Loved it. One of my favourites of the year so far and glad to hear that I’m not alone in struggling to catch onto Dexter. Despite the dark subject matter, I felt it was a little tame in comparison to other tv shows.

      Cheers Dave, as always!

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  10. Solid entertainment isn’t it? Johnson especially is great. Nice work my man!

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  11. Great write up as always Mark. I missed this one during the EIFF sadly, but did catch the Q&A with Don Johnson. He’s quite a colourful character, let me tell ya :). Cold in July seems like one of many stylish Texan noir films that have been coming through of late. We Gotta Get Out of This Place and of course Blue Ruin being the others of mention. Despite what sounds like poor writing Ill give this one a shot.

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    • Cheers, man! You caught a Q&A with Don Johnson? Nice one buddy.

      I wasn’t actually even going to do a review of this (you can probably tell it’s rushed) but I felt I should give it some praise. The plot holes are the films biggest problem but it’s still stylish enough to warrant a viewing. It’s no Blue Ruin but decent all the same.

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