Cold in July (2014)
May 3, 2018 12:46 PM - Subscribe

Based on a Joe Lansdale book, Jim Mickle’s Cold in July is an odd, twisty Texan neo-noir that at first seems straightforward and scary but a mite predictable. Michael C. Hall is Richard Dane, a mousy picture-framer in a small Texas town who—in a superbly edited sequence—accidentally shoots a burglar in his house in the middle of the night. Almost immediately, he finds himself the focus of the dead man’s vengeful ex-con father. The film is set in the late 80's and has a score that's heavily influenced by John Carpenter.

Village Voice:

Set in East Texas, 1989, with exquisite attention to period detail, the film is in many ways a coming-of-age tale for the three adult men at its center. After he kills the burglar who breaks into his family’s home one night, the preternaturally nervous Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) is consumed with guilt. His near-crippling remorse does nothing, however, to appease the burglar’s hoodlum dad, Russell (Sam Shepard), who wants revenge.

Empire:

A character-driven thriller with more twists than an off-the-map dirt road, awards-quality performances from the three leads, a rare sensitivity to the after-effects of horror and a sure directorial hand.

Vulture:

Jim Mickle’s Cold in July is a noir thriller that at first seems straightforward, compact, scary but a mite predictable. Michael C. Hall is Richard Dane, a mousy picture-framer in a small Texas town who—in a superbly edited sequence—accidentally shoots a burglar in his house in the middle of the night. Almost immediately, he finds himself the focus of the dead man’s vengeful ex-con father, Russel (Sam Shepard)—a wiry, chilling resourceful criminal with a folksy way of saying hey and then getting past a battery of police officers and into Dane’s little boy’s bedroom. So far, so Cape Fear. Then come the twists and turns—sudden, hairpin, outlandish. Before you quite know what’s happening, you’re swerving into another sort of movie altogether. And then another. You might not buy them all, but what a great ride

AV Club:

As entertaining as it is to watch Cold In July drift, the film has to eventually pick a lane—and that’s where this otherwise accomplished suspense picture runs into the ditch. Without saying much more, it’s a weird path to forge, from the thorny moral inquiries of act one to the pandering genre thrills of act three. The upshot isn’t just genuinely dumb, it’s a bit tasteless, as though either Lansdale or Mickle let some irresponsible 14-year-old dream up a “badass” ending. Enjoying a long, strange trip doesn’t always mean appreciating the destination.

Ebert:

"Cold in July" starts simply enough. Family man Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) wakes up in the middle of the night, and kills an intruder. Distraught, Richard attends the would-be burglar's funeral, and is confronted by Russel (Sam Shepard), his victim's father. Russel icily threatens to kill Richard's young son, sending the family man to the authorities for protection. However, Richard soon discovers that Russel isn't who he's been led to believe, and the police aren't telling him everything. It's a complicated plot involving a trunkful of snuff films, a defiled corpse, and a flamboyant private detective played by Don Johnson (if this film were in Smell-o-Vision, it'd reek of chicken fried steak, and bodily fluids whenever Johnson appeared onscreen). Basically, this film could only be more palpably sleazy if you rubbed the movie screen with a Vaseline-soaked stripper's thong.
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