MICHAEL C. HALL SAM SHEPARD DON JOHNSON VINESSA SHAW
COLD IN JULY
If you have been missing those weeknight, network 90’s films from the old days (you know, the Monday Movie of the Week), then you are in for a treat with Sundance and Cannes official selection Cold in July. Jim Mickle doesn’t just throw in the old clothes, synthesizer musical score or vintage cars to make it seem like we are in 1989; we have full on mullet, floral couches and it re-confirms everything Richard Linklater showed us in Bernie about East Texas. Before the title even hits the screen, the suspense is packed so tight it’s seeping out of the cracks. Cold in July starts off a thriller and ends up a thriller, but what happens in between is quite entertaining to watch; it's often absurd, and even funny.
After shooting an intruder, quiet family man Richard Dane (Hall) and his family live in fear that the deceased’s father will seek revenge, and he does; sneaking into the house, evading local Texas police, and spreading bullets on Dane’s sons’ bedspread. What doesn’t sit right with Richard is taking ex-convict Ben Russell (Shepard) out the backdoor of the police station late at night. Prey turned ally, the two find there is a lot more being covered up than the identity of the intruder. This leads to Ben’s buddy Jim Bob (Johnson) driving his red convertible Cadillac up from Houston so these boys can take justice into their own hands.
Not only does the plot twist and turn multiple times, reorienting the type of film we think we are watching, but the narrative is also interchangeable from suspense to dark comedy, and finally to action thriller. When Don Johnson steps into the picture, it’s as if Nash Bridges has been reborn with vintage Texan attire and horns on his hood. The plot involves “The Dixie Mafia," a term so absurd I had to look it up just to verify the ridiculousness of the name; it’s real, believe it or not. Whatever Mickle’s intentions adapting Joe R. Landsdale were, he pulled it off in some weird, twisted obsession with late 80’s/early 90’s film that infects every facet of this picture.
One of the year's most fascinating on screen trios, Johnson, Shepard and Hall electrify the screen in a flickering neon sign type of way. When you first hear that synthesizer musical score, all the shameful thrillers from 1991 will flood your memory. It’s jarring at first, but when you realize what Mickle is doing it’s just another brilliant element to this creation. Coincidence is probably the biggest drawback to the film, but it never ruins the fun here. Mickle draws from other filmmakers like Tarantino or Friedkin, who have shot similar type genre films in and around Texas, but he takes this retro road trip farther than anyone has done successfully.
Final Thought – Never has the 90’s suspense thriller looked and felt so good.
By: Dustin Chase