Cinema Review – Cold in July

After he shoots a home intruder dead, Richard (Michael C. Hall) fears for his family’s safety when the victim’s father Ben (Sam Shepard) is released from prison. After Ben targets the family and is arrested, Richard realises that the man he killed is not Ben’s son, and the police are covering up something far more sinister. Cold in July is based on a novel by Joe R. Lansdale, and the film feels as though it has liberally borrowed from films such as Drive to create a thriller that is not entirely fresh, and not entirely thrilling. Michael C. Hall, in his first role post-Dexter, does well for the first half of the film, as a family man whose life is thrown into turmoil. As the film deflates however, so does Hall’s performance, until the audience is entirely unsure of the character’s motivations. The same goes for all of the cast, but Sam Shepard comes out of proceedings a lot better than the leading man. An ex-con with a strong moral compass, it is easy to see Ben’s motivations and Shepard is strong and engaging, as usual. Don Johnson brings some levity and comedy to the film, playing a larger than life PI, whose Texan pride is writ large in his music tastes, sartorial style and mode of transport. The story, written for the screen by Nick Damici, starts off with tension, danger ans suspense. Somehow, as the motivations of the characters disappear and the moral of the tale becomes muddled, the film begins to deflate, ending on a whimper, rather than a bang. It could be that Damici is adapting a novel here, or it could be that he simply got caught up in the idea of revenge and justice, but Cold in July is definitely a film of two halves, one of which is not equal to the other. Director Jim Mickle has brought some great indie B-Movies to the big screen through his career to date – not least the cannibal tale We Are What We Are – but in the wake of such great indie dramas as Blue Ruin and Locke, Cold in July feels inferior. As well as this, the soundtrack, cinematography and character arcs feels jarringly familiar to Drive, which diminish the film even further. Motivation and character development go out of the window in the second half of the film, meaning that Cold in July seems to end because it has simply run out of steam. Despite a great premise, a strong start and the involvement of some serious talent, Cold in July is an underwhelming film that starts as one thing and ends as another, with the audience unclear as to how we got to where we are. The pacing and runtime seriously let the film down as well. Truly disappointing that Cold in July never lives up to it’s own promise. Rating: 2/5

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