Cold in July

How can a split-second decision change your life? While investigating noises in his house one balmy Texas night in 1989, Richard Dane puts a bullet in the brain of low-life burglar Freddy Russell. Although he’s hailed as a small-town hero, Dane soon finds himself fearing for his family’s safety when Freddy’s ex-con father, Ben, rolls into town, hell-bent on revenge.

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  • ★★★★½ review by Todd Gaines on Letterboxd

    An honest hardworking man and a convicted felon cross paths in this tense as no other dirty grimy moody edgy dark thriller. Ray Donovan's old flame? Always keep your pistol in a shoebox. Dexter's short mullet. Cheap gasoline. Who remembers the typewriter? Bloody sofa. Who doesn't drink beer before noon? Gravediggers. Sam Shepard's swagger. Dexter's Southern drawl. The score is intense as a motherfucker. It captures the dark mood to near perfection. Rick Grimes's hat. A tire torque wrench is a fantastic weapon to use against a burglar. Raining bullets. Midnight snack. Thunder scare. Fuck! This might not be a traditional horror flick, but Sam Shepard is one scary motherfucker. Crawlspace dweller. Choo choo train. Dirty muddy shoes. Jeff Grace is one helluva underrated musical composer. Water jug chug. Lucky zippo. Straw toy. Watching Don Johnson and Sam Shepard act is undeniable proof the coolest motherfuckers only get better with age. I'm deliberately not talking a lot about the plot. The less you know, the better for you. Adult time is always fun. Have I told you how awesomely awesome the musical score is? Hungry piggies. Fuzzy dice. Pinto baddie. Backwards nut kick. Bootleg porn. When you have no clue how to operate a VCR. Jim Mickle is one promising up and coming director. The way Sam Shepard squeezes the trigger of a gun. Mariachi band. Michael C. Hall proves to me he's so much more than the Ice Truck Killer's brother with his spectacular wide range acting skills. The magical mystical powers of the video rental store. Dexter's mustache. Busted eardrum. Shotgun ownage. Holy motherfucker! Could this be my favorite film of 2014? The realistic violence ain't no joke. Maury Povich moment. Fire burns and sometimes the truth really does hurt. Fuck yes! I was super excited before I watched Cold In July and I'm even more excited afterwards. That just doesn't happen too often. This film is the motherfucker and I can't recommend it enough.

  • ★★★★ review by CinemaClown on Letterboxd

    An endless orgy of twists & turns that begins & ends with a bullet being fired, Cold in July isn't an easy film to pin into any genre because it starts as one thing, then changes its course around the middle, seems to be heading in the direction you predicted but once again takes an unexpected turn to become something else entirely.

    Set in 1989 Texas, the film tells the story of a local civilian who's all over the news after killing an intruder in self-defence, only to find his family being stalked by the ex-con father of the deceased. However, the two soon find themselves being misled by the police & with the help of a private investigator try to uncover the real truth.

    Co-written & directed by Jim Mickle, this indie keeps shifting its gear which stacks up pretty well in the end as the aura of tension that's present in the film throughout its runtime is nerve-wracking. Camerawork is expertly handled, editing is really good, background score nicely compliments the whole narrative & the tone shifts are carried out in a manner that pulls the viewers in than out.

    Coming to the performances, the film boasts a badass cast in Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard & Don Johnson and the trio are fabulous in their given roles. Hall plays an everyman & it is through him that we enter into the story, Shepard chips in with a strong performance as well but it's Don Johnson who impresses the most & steals every scene he's in with effortless finesse.

    On an overall scale, Cold in July is a tense, gripping & expertly narrated indie that offers an immersive drama which eventually culminates on a highly satisfying & emotionally rewarding note. Worthy of a wider audience & definitely one of the finest films of the year, not to mention one of the coolest as well, Cold in July is certainly worth a shot & comes highly recommended.

    Full review at: wp.me/p3KleJ-TF

  • ★★★★½ review by Florin Stan on Letterboxd

    "Good thing he wasn't in an O.K. Corral mood."

    This dark, gripping crime thriller directed by Jim Mickle feels like a breath of fresh air. There's nothing new about it per se, yet it's like nothing that came before it. It has its own style, its own tone, its own pacing, its own identity. It's unique, and as a 2014 crime thriller that's saying something; it's saying quite a lot. Calling it a crime movie or a thriller is not really accurate however, as the movie defies a clear genre classification. It's many things, rolled into one. It constantly evolves, shifts gears and becomes something else, it's like peeling an onion, revealing something new, different and unexpected with each layer. And if there's one thing I love, that's peeling onions.

    The movie has been visibly influenced by a number of great film-makers, like the Coen brothers (the noirish quality and genre subversion), John Carpenter (the detached perspective and masculinity; there's definitely an Assault on Precinct 13 and The Thing vibe going on, plus the score is straight out of a Carpenter flick), Mario Bava and Dario Argento (there are moments when the lighting is very colorful and stylish, greens and reds being a favorite combination for the Italian film-makers). But as much as the movie seems to be comprised of other people's work it uses these influences and combines them to create something new, independent and intriguing.

    The three main actors were superbly cast and they work together very well. There's nothing more that can be said about Sam Shepard, the guy is a legend and his performance here is as great as we've come to expect from him. Don Johnson has a magnetic screen presence, he has the ability to capture the viewer's attention through his seemingly effortless, laid back acting and subtle body language. Michael C. Hall, who arguably plays the main character, seems a bit intimidated by the two experienced actors and has difficulty holding his own but he compensates with a noticeable dedication and an amazing mullet.

    Technically, the film is impeccable, from editing to camera work and lighting. The story is the kind of story that keeps you invested throughout, slowly revealing itself in a way that garners interest, accentuates the dangerous implications and raises the intensity levels. The darkness that resides at the core of this world is skillfully presented through the main character (with whom the audience identifies), an unknowing, hard-working family guy who finds himself in an extraordinary situation and faced with the unpleasant and harsh reality in which he lives. This world that we're shown seems to imply that the life we choose to live bears responsibility that extends beyond our own selves as it has an influence on those around us and the actions we take (or the lack of such actions) have their consequences.

    An experience like this, with wrinkles at every step and new directions taken with each opportunity, is not commonplace. It's an experience like none other and one that is substantially rewarding. There are rotten apples and good, tasty apples, just like there are good crime thrillers and bad ones. Cold in July is the... uhm... onion among apples.

  • ★★★★ review by Esteban Gonzalez on Letterboxd

    “You know when a dog bites you... you can either chain him up... or shoot him.”

    Cold in July was one of the most surprising films of 2014 for me considering I didn’t have much expectations for it. I had never heard of director Jim Mickle nor had I read Joe R. Lansdale’s novel so I was expecting a standard and by the books revenge thriller. I hadn’t even watched the trailer for this film, but I did want to see Michael C. Hall in a starring role considering I loved his work in Dexter. I got much more than I bargained for from this witty and entertaining thriller set in 1989 East Texas. It begins as a simple revenge tale after a family man (played by Michael C. Hall) kills a burglar in his home. It turns out that the victim was a wanted felon so he becomes sort of an overnight hero in his small town. However, the victim’s father (Sam Shepard) shows up and begins to threaten his family. Up to this point everything felt by the books, but I was still having a good time with it. From the opening scene I felt the tension and was enjoying the suspense, but when the twists began kicking in it simply elevated the film to a whole other level. With each twist and revelation the film grew on me more and more because it became unpredictable and grittier. It also has its touches of humor scattered throughout the film thanks to a strong supporting performance from Don Johnson. I had a great time with this film as it kept me at the edge of my seat. I absolutely recommend this well paced thriller which plays with its well known genre conventions.

    The strong performances in this film are a big reason why the twists and thrills work. First of all, Michael C. Hall gives in my opinion the best performance in his career. He carries the film from beginning to end as we see the transformation he experiences after the fatal incident in his home with the burglar. The town may recognize him as a hero, but he feels uneasy about having killed a man even though he was defending his home. When Sam Shepard’s character shows up fear begins to creep in to his life and Hall portrays these feelings perfectly. Shepard is also outstanding in the supporting role as his presence is threatening. But Don Johnson is the one who steals the show from the moment he appears on screen driving a flashy red car and wearing a cowboy hat. He is comedic at times, but someone the audience trusts to help solve the mystery. Don Johnson himself helps give the film a more retro vibe than it already had (so does Hall’s mullet). I really enjoyed each one of the characters in this film along with the dark mood and surprising twists. The electric score also adds a lot to the overall atmosphere of the film. I’m really interested now in getting familiar with Jim Mickle’s work because he really surprised me with this film.

  • ★★★★½ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd

    So many films are released in the course of the year. Some are big blockbusters, some are small indies, some are Oscar-bait; however, all of them are out for viewers. Every film wants to be seen, but so few are given the popularity and acclaim that they deserve.

    Cold In July isn't just recommended by me, It's demanded by me. I blind-bought the Blu-ray, hoping for a neo-noir to give me some chills. What I got was a film so hauntingly vibrant and disgustingly pulpy that I couldn't believe what I just saw. Simply put, Cold In July is one of my favorite films of the year so far, a piece of work so wonderfully dirty and beautifully tragic that I found myself flabbergasted at the execution and subtlety on display.

    It's always hard to find the words when you discover a film you truly love, especially one that mesmerizes, perplexes, frightens, stuns, and shocks in equal measure. Cold In July is like one giant tonal shift, yet it's uplifted because of that attribute. The film is utterly unpredictable, both in respect to the actual story and the development of the story's characters. It's also hard to describe the film, mainly because any hint will spoil the many surprises in store. Just a word of warning, DON'T WATCH THE TRAILER FOR THIS.

    I'm skipping the synopsis, as I'm not going to risk the chance of spoiling anything. Instead, I'm going to focus more on the technical elements as well as the spellbinding performances throughout the film.

    The direction by Jim Mickle is so revolting yet enticing that it holds the foundation for this gripping and hypnotic ride. Distinctly post-modern and nostalgic of the seedy trashy midnight-films of the 1980s, the entire film is as if Drive went even further down the rabbit-hole of depravity and societal decay. It's unpleasant and commanding in its sense of place and character, fully evolving themes slowly but surely throughout its run-time. Truly, the entire film feels as if its on a ticking time-bomb that will eventually explode into a potent fireworks show of gaining masculinity and resurrecting security.

    The cinematography by Ryan Samul perfectly echos the tight direction, and it culminates with a film that rides slowly against a sense of darkness, only to disappear more and more as the film goes on. The pulsating sights of neon and colorful skylights signal a lost world, and as our characters transverse this world, It's like they're being trapped in a environment of rich red lights and stimulating flashes of vivid violence.

    The performances by Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson are formidably quiet and passionately hushed, and it's essential for viewers to closely examine both the facial expressions of our characters as well as the tranquil glances within conversations. All of the roles are just as restful as the film, but that's what gives the film its dominant aura.

    And finally, the soundtrack by Jeff Grace is the loose and playful pulse for this decomposing body of a film. It's so awesome and beautiful that words can't describe it.

    Overall, I just ADORE this movie. Fiery, striking, captivating, and vigorous; check this little gem out as soon as possible.

    Edit: I brought back my rating just a tad, mainly because it can't compete with some of the more radical and original films of the year. However, don't let that put you off from seeing one of the pulpiest and dirtiest films of the past few years. It's gnarly.

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