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Cold in July

cold in july michael c hall

Daddy’s Boys – ★★★½

Michael C. Hall is best known for his work on the small screen with award-winning work in “Dexter” and “Six Feet Under” showing him as an actor of real talent. Due to the busy schedule that a TV show brings he probably hasn’t had a lot of time to carve out a career on the big screen with a small role in last year’s Kill Your Darlings the only thing that sticks in the mind.

In Cold in July, Hall takes on the challenge of a tache/mullet combo and the part of picture framer and family man Richard Dane who is awoken one night to find an intruder in his home. It being Texas and it being the 1980s, Dane approaches the man with his gun and due to a combination of being startled and terrified, he inadvertently pulls the trigger and kills him. Now it’s never good to kill a man and the burglar’s father Russel (Sam Shepard), who is just out of prison, arrives on the scene and starts threatening the Dane family, hell-bent on revenge. It slowly transpires that all is not as it seems with both Dane and Russel at the centre of an apparent police cover-up. What do you do when you’re in a spiralling conspiracy? You call a private investigator (Don Johnson in a cowboy hat) to get things into shape on your quest for justice.

Texas. Can't be going anywhere without a hat boys.

Texas. Can’t be going anywhere without a hat boys.

Director Jim Mickle is a relative unknown, although one of his earlier pictures Stake Land did register as one of Páraic’s picks on’s Best Films of 2011. Cold in July is based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale and its pulp fiction origins are hard to escape. Lansdale also wrote the novella “Bubba Ho-Tep” which was adapted into a Bruce Campbell-starring film in 2002 and has gone on to become a bit of a cult classic.

Cold in July is positively dripping in the hallmarks of a good solid thriller with plenty of strong set-pieces which will have you on the edge of your seat. Mid-way through the film it takes a twist and from this point on there are a few moments where you’re left questioning the character’s motives and choices but hell, this is Texas where the different between right and wrong is quite blurred anyway.

Mickle adapted the screenplay himself – with the help of long-time collaborator Nick Damici who also plays a cop in the film – and you wonder just how faithful they had to be to the original book and characters as some of them were a little too broad and clichéd for my liking.

A quick word for the film’s rather unusual score which has been put together by composer Jeff Grace and is all heavy synthesizer sounds that will have you thinking of John Carpenter and the music in Assault On Precinct 13 (a song is embedded below). On rare occasions it jars with what we see on screen but overall it works very well and contributes to the knots in your stomach we should be feeling by the film’s final act.

Performance wise you can’t knock the central trio of Hall, Shepard and Johnson. There’s a very unique dynamic between the three misfits but their talent means it all fits together in spite of the issues with the script. Keep an eye out for Wyatt Russell who we’ve just recently seen in 22 Jump Street as Channing Tatum’s best ‘bro’ Zook. Wyatt is the son of Kurt Russell who of course is well known for working with John Carpenter. #links

The film has its issues but you suspect most of these have their origins in the source material. Take the film for what it is though – a showcase of three terrific actors doing their thing in a sweaty, pulpy Texas thriller.

Released at selected Irish cinemas on June 27th 2014

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