Cold In July
Fathers and sons, crime and punishment, and sin and salvation are the Old Testament themes of director Jim Mickle’s juicy slice of East Texas pulp fiction. Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall, sporting a mustache and mullet, plays a dad and husband who’s awakened one sultry summer night to find a low-life burglar ransacking his living room. He shoots and kills the man, and in the process goes from small-town Everyman to local don’t-tread-on-me hero. But the incident puts his family in the crosshairs of the dead thief’s leathery and vengeful ex-con father (Sam Shepard, channeling Robert Mitchum from 1962’s Cape Fear). The movie’s adapted from a 1989 Joe R. Lansdale novel, and Mickle and co-writer Nick Damici’s noirish, B-movie setup is gripping and loaded with sinister promise. But the thriller takes some unexpected — and not entirely convincing — detours. I kept rolling my eyes at Hall’s character, wondering, ”Why the hell is he doing that?!” through the whole middle third of the movie.
But then something magical happens: Don Johnson pulls up in a red Cadillac convertible and gooses the film with a delirious blast of down-home adrenaline — and a blast of bloody violence. As a cowboy-hat-wearing private eye named Jim Bob (naturally) with a sideline in pig farming (why not?), Johnson ties some of the film’s looser ends together and makes you overlook the ones that stay untied. Between Eastbound & Down, Django Unchained, and now Cold in July, Johnson has a nice little streak going of turning seemingly disposable characters into indelible scene-stealing rascals. (Also available on VOD) B