Stars: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw, Wyatt Russell, Nick Damici, Lanny Flaherty, Kristin Griffith, Dorothea Swiac, Joe Lanza, Rachel Zeiger-Haag | Written by Jim Mickle, Nick Damici, Joe R. Lansdale | Directed by Jim Mickle
Texan thriller Cold In July, has been hailed as the new No Country for Old Men. The latest film from director Jim Mickle is based on a pulp thriller novel by Joe R Lansdale, who arguably isn’t in the same league as Cormac McCarthy. But can his film adapattion live up to the hype? Having been a big fan of the brilliant albeit trashy series, Dexter, I was keen to see how Michael C. Hall adapted to the big screen.
The film sets off at a rapid pace, with foundations quickly set for an intriguing puzzle. Our protagonist Richard Dane (along with his dodgy Texan accent), is woken up by a curious noise in his downstairs kitchen. When he ventures out to investigate, he is met by a burglar whom he shoots at point-blank range following an unfortunate chime from a grandfather clock. What follows is a turbulent series of events as the murky past of Dane’s victim is revealed. Understandably guilt-ridden having killed an intruder with a single shot, Richard is full of remorse and fends off accolades from the local community who revere him as a hero. Instead, his main priority is to protect his wife and child from any further intrusions.
The first half of the film throws the audience into a roller coaster of suspense, as the identity of the mystery burglar slowly becomes apparent. Michael C. Hall plays a believeable Texan everyday man, complete with mullet. Cold in July is set in 1989 and the aesthetics of the film are wonderful; details are meticulous, including an apt soundtrack. However, despite a promising start, the film takes an altogether different direction when Dane meets the father of the man he killed, played by Sam Shepard. In a quest to unravel the reasons behind the burglary, the pair enlist the help of Jim Bob (Don Johnson).
What follows is an oddly farcical turn of events, as suspense makes way for slightly slapstick comedy and a far-fetched conclusion to the film. Michael C. Hall manages to maintain a strong lead performance, but it’s hard to take the film seriously as the final third plays out. Instead of tying up the various plot-lines neatly, the end of the film feels rushed and you’re left unfilled and disappointed having invested so much early on. Cold In July felt as if it had so much to offer and there are certainly signs of promise. But, unlike Dexter, Michael C. Hall can’t afford the odd dud episode on the big screen – this is one you won’t be re-watching in a hurry.
Cold in July is in cinemas now, click here to read Jack’s take on the film.