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COLD IN JULY – Review

June 26, 2014

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


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Richard Dane is awoken one night to hear an intruder in his house; he reaches for his gun and takes out the budding burglar. Riddled with guilt he soon fears for his family as the burglar’s father Ben Russell has been released from prison and is now stalking him. However, Richard soon finds he’s part of a much larger conspiracy when he notices the man he killed looks nothing like Ben’s son. Thus the film is both thrilling and filled with mystery but it also takes strange turns along the way losing itself in tone, becoming a bit confusing to watch but ultimately it keeps you guessing.

Richard Dane is played by Michael C Hall, fresh off the hit TV show Dexter and the indie feature Kill Your Darlings. He is convincing as a small-town man who has been dragged into things much bigger than himself, dealing with guilt and the applause of others for bringing down a criminal. This could have been a film entirely based on the ethical consequences of taking a life but it moves swiftly into thriller territory when Ben Russell (Sam Shepard) enters the scene. Angered by the death of his son, Ben starts appearing everywhere Richard goes – more like a phantom rather than a stalker – and seeks revenge on Richards’ own son. The suspense is powerful, gripping and just pushes the boundaries of ridiculousness without detracting from what’s on screen.

All this changes when Richard and Ben realise that Ben’s son isn’t dead and the arrival of Private Investigator Jim Bob Luke (Don Johnson) results in another change of tone that is comedic in the way that Tarantino makes violence comedic; the boundaries of ridiculousness are now pushed too far. It’s such a strong change in tone that I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be shocked, but I was interested in where it would take me. This would have been an acceptable move if the characters themselves remained consistent, especially Michael C. Hall’s character who changes throughout the film with no regard to how he acted previously. The inconsistent characters take you out of the film and really hamper the enjoyment of the dark comedy route it takes when Don Johnson’s character arrives.

Directed by Jim Mickle, he continues his successful string of films with a beautifully shot film, choosing all the best angles to shoot from and crystallise the essence of the scenes, from the eerie to the awkward there was nothing I could fault with the cinematography. Unlike the editing, which could have at least eased us into the third act rather changing tone so quickly; I was unsure of where the film would lead me and I genuinely enjoyed being in the dark for once.

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The trio that forms are extremely entertaining to watch as they converse and curse through the movie; this consequently leads to Richards’ family and the Police to be completely ignored for the rest of the film. Leading to a few unresolved plotlines the ending is frustrating even if the journey is enjoyable. I have tried to steer clear of spoilers as I do feel that its strength is in its surprising twists, but I will say that those who are not fans of gratuitous violence should steer clear – the films’ opening sees Richard and his wife Ann (Vinessa Shaw – absolutely charming as a southern belle, by the way) clean brain and blood off their living room wall and it only gets worse from there.

If you like surprises and are a fan of thriller and dark comedies I highly recommend Cold In July; it left me confused as it attempts to be three movies in one and annoyed that certain plot threads are abandoned but I did like its unpredictability.

Cold In July is out in UK cinemas on June 27th

Sunny Ramgolam