Overview: Three Texas men take justice into their own hands after a burglary gone wrong results in an accidental killing. Based on the novel of the same name by Joe R. Lansdale. Distributed by IFC Films, Not Rated, 110 minutes.
Revenge Is Best Served Texas Style: This film is divided into two distinct halves. The first is a fairly straightforward crime drama that follows Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) after he accidentally shoots and kills an intruder. About halfway through the run time the story shifts, transforming into a gun slinging revenge thriller complete with mullets, prostitutes, and cowboy hats. Sounds ludicrously comical, right? But somehow it all just works. Once this film hits its stride, it barrels through the twists and turns, with Director Jim Mickle at the wheel, taking viewers on a ride that’s so uniquely jarring and intriguing that we don’t care to take pause and contemplate any of its flaws or idiosyncrasies.
These three unlikely companions decide to break all rules when they decide to start dishing out their own punishments, and Mickle does the same thing with the film itself. It’s a mash up of genres, from comedy to western to suspense thriller and everything in between. Mickle also manages to gather all of the familiar elements of the typical crime dramas and revenge flicks and mold them into something completely fresh and original. The dialogue is smart, the violence is shockingly brutal and bloody, and the atmosphere is dark and unnerving in the best possible way.
The Leading Men: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson (as Richard Dane, Ben Russel, and Jim Bob Luke) all provide their own unique screen presence, each one as compelling and commanding as the next. Thoughts and emotions are conveyed through body language and facial expressions, and it’s fascinating to watch how they vary. Hall’s expression is one of constant wary and anxiety as he balances his need to protect his family, his moral obligations, and his desire to see justice upheld. Ben Russell’s a pot of boiling anger and turmoil that’s constantly about to boil over, and Jim Bob Luke’s a quick-witted, loyal cowboy who’s more than happy to join the party. When they throw in together and decide it’s time for a blood bath, the result is gripping and disturbingly mesmerizing.
Final Thoughts: With exceptional directing, sharp dialogue, and compelling performances, Cold in July is proof that an old dog can still indeed learn new tricks.