Cold in July (2014)


Next time, just watch who you shoot. Better yet, ask for their names and possible family members that may come around and extract revenge.

After shooting and killing a masked intruder, Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) believes that justice has been and there’s no need to harp on his act of violence. However, the intruder’s father, Ben Russell (Sam Shepard) thinks differently and wants to see his side’s justice be done. Therefore, he concocts his own idea of revenge, which means terrorizing the rest of Dane’s family. Thankfully for Dane, he gets caught in the act and is jailed. One night though, out of pure curiosity, Dane decides to check up on what’s happening with the case and realizes that the man he shot and killed was not the man the police said it was; even worse, he finds out that the police want to get rid of Russell so that he won’t dime out the cops on their plan. Dane still has a bit of a conscience left and decides to save Russell from impending doom, where they end up figuring out just what’s really going on with all of this. What they find out is shocking and sends both Russell and Dane, along with Russell’s old friend who works in the CIA (Don Johnson), on a mission of sorts, where Dane wonders if he should stick to his comfy life as a middle-aged, suburban father, or pick up a gun and start shooting.

It’s hard to discuss a movie like this, because every plot-point counts. There’s many different twists, turns, roads, alleyways, and roads that this movie takes throughout its near two-hour run-time and honestly, to give any of them away would be an absolute wrongdoing on my part. In fact, half of the fun to be found in this movie is the twists that show up and add more fuel to the story.

See! He doesn't want to do it!
“Peek-a-boo!”

Now, that’s not to say they all work, but most of them at least add enough to the story that makes it seem like it’s diving deeper and deeper into its own, gritty, seedy underworld of sex, drugs, violence and all sorts of other bad happenings. In most movies, I would have a huge problem with this aspect of its story-telling; however, here, with Cold in July, I felt like it worked well enough for the story that it seemed the slightest bit reasonable. It all fell into that idea of, “in the dark South, anything bad can, and will most likely happen”, so I just decided to run with it and have fun while I could.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t anything wrong with just allowing a violent movie to be just that and soak in its extremities, but there has to be more substance to all of the savage, bloody killings and murders occurring. There not only has to be some heart found, but any bit of development with the characters involved, in order to give the proceedings to follow some sort of heightened emotional-connection. But here, there isn’t much of that, which mostly just comes down to the fact that the characters aren’t very interesting, nor are they given much time to just breathe.

For instance, take the character of Ben Russell; who is, essentially, a character perfectly-suited for Sam Shepard’s talents. He’s tall, lean, mean, keeps to himself, and has a penchant for killing and shooting things whenever he deems necessary. To call onto a legend like Shepard to do that, is perfectly fine – in fact, it’s downright genius. However, that’s all Ben Russell is. Nothing more. He’s just a guy who doesn’t talk at all and believes that when justice needs to be done, it must be done by any means necessary. We’ve seen that character done-to-death a million times and the way he extracts justice from that certain person is displayed here in a relatively fresh way, but doesn’t add much to the character of who Ben Russell actually is.

I get that’s sort of the point (he’s quiet and reserved), but considering that he’s the main reason why this story is happening the way it is, I would have definitely liked to get more of a glimpse into the way he saw the world and who he was. Same goes for the CIA-buddy that Russell is friends with, played wonderfully by Don Johnson. Thanks to Johnson’s lovely, old-timey charisma that rarely ever doesn’t show in anything he does, this character is given some sort of personality and complexity, but not enough to where we’re the ones getting behind his case and what it is that he wants to do.

"Hey sonny. Gotta light? Maybe even a dead body of a serial killer in your trunk?
“Hey sonny. Gotta light? Maybe even a dead body of a serial killer in your trunk?”

Instead, the movie is all about the revenge, the blood, the guns, and most important of all, the violence which mostly takes over the last-half of this movie. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with that because we get a chance to see some fine, well-set action-sequences that a younger Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez would probably wet their pants over (or even present versions of themselves now), but there’s not much humanity to it. They’re tense sequences as is, but if there had been more emotion thrown in there, one could only imagine how much harder they’d be grasping the arms to their seats.

The one who sort of walks away from this movie relatively well is Michael C. Hall who plays this Richard Dane-fella as a somewhat scared, family man that flinches before he pulls any trigger. More often than not, that aspect will shock most fans of his who only know him from his Dexter days; for anybody who has ever witnessed an episode of Six Feet Under, will probably see this as a sort of return-to-form for him. In fact, this performance could even be seen as a meshing of the two, very different acting-styles Hall has shown to the world: He’s like Dexter in the way that he kills and hunts people down with a source of inspiration burning deep down inside of him, whereas he’s sort of like David Fisher in the way that he’s not ready for all of this violence in his life, and wants to stay in his safe, middle-class world. If anything, this is a great performance from Hall, and goes to show you that the guy should continue to keep on doing movies, even if his character may not be as rich as the characters he’s played on television in the past decade or so.

Okay, maybe those last few seasons of the former weren’t as amazing, but you get what I mean: More movies for Michael C. Hall and I think we’ll all be better-off as a society.

Consensus: Cold in July is a revenge-tale dripping with all sorts of blood, violence and Southern-fried sweat, and while that’s good fun and all, the material never goes as deep as it should with its message, or its characters.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

These three hanging out and sippin' on some brews? Sure, why not! As long as they are working with the same accents!
These three hanging out and sippin’ on some brews? Sure, why not! As long as they are working with the same accents!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

16 comments

  1. Damn…not impressed with your score. I have been looking forward to this one for ages now and was expecting high 8’s or 9’s! The premise sounds quite interesting and unique so I’m still pumped. Plus Hall is always awesome!

  2. Southern Fried Sweat? I’m in! Going to check this one out, Dan. I’m intrigued despite it’s shortcomings. Still looks like a cool gritty flick. Thanks and good work like always.

  3. Bummed you didn’t like Cold in July as much as I did. I felt like the characters were full formed enough for me. Jim Mickle is great at the slow burn suspense that leaves you completely uneasy the whole time. I kept wondering where things were headed and was surprised when they took new directions. I think my only major complaint is that you never feel like you get enough explanation on the web of crime/corruption going on.

  4. “Cold In July”, along with “Blue Ruin” would be my two favorite films of 2014, now nearing it’s midpoint. Strange in that you didn’t mention (or catch) the many intended similarities with how “Cold…” was staged and shot like a film from John Carpenter’s prime run- complete with Albertus typeface and synth score…

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