What I thought was going to be a simple home invasion film, Cold in July turned into something far more insidious and twisted than I ever imagined. Boasting wonderful performances from Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and especially Don Johnson, this is one not to miss. From the most visceral but briefest of incidences, a tale of abhorrent violence and deceit begins to spiral beyond control. If you that loved the gritty revenge film Blue Ruin you will find a similar reaction of acceptance, though maybe from a safer distance; that is to say you’ll like it but you’ll feel a bit uncomfortable for liking such a dark story. What drew me in so much with this film is the ambition road they took in connecting complex story elements. By the end I couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen. And if you prefer that a movie just hurries up and gets to the point you will love this. The catalyst that sets this whole thing off takes place in the first five minutes and then it’s off to the races.
Simple direction, great performances, and a great script make for one of the best unheard of films of 2014. Set in the late 80’s of rural Texas, the locations create a sense of abandonment, as if no one is around to hear any poor souls scream for help… or death. It feels dirty and unclean, which is fitting for such demented creatures as these characters. Unfortunately evil does not stick to one spot and the innocent to another. For anyone unfortunate enough to run into such evil humans the innocence is often lost, and for Michael C. Hall’s character this is especially true. It’s wonderful to watch him react in such horror at what transpires, but in many ways is also nearly blind to his own deplorable behavior. His conduct may be justifiable but none the less appalling.
The true standout here is Don Johnson who plays Jim Bob, a pig-farming man with a badge and gun and something to prove. He is quick witted and provides the brief moments of humor in an otherwise dramatic violence quest. He is the funnier character but when the bullets fly he is right there pulling the trigger and putting people in the ground. It’s with Jim Bob that a more sludge ruined truth lies, and the end is something he soon finds out is beyond comprehension. A wronged bystander, a revenged filled veteran, and a fast talking farmer (of sorts) come together for their own brand of Texas justice and it is a bloody kind of righteousness.
With twists and turns rampant throughout, this is one tale that never gets stagnant. For a time it is difficult to differentiate between the bad and the good, which makes for very tense moments of shock and realization. One man once thought to be malicious turns out to be a hoodwinked victim, much the same as the film’s lead character. Unforeseen bonds begin to form; revelations come to light that are so vacant they almost reverse the light itself back to the darkness, as if the light never even existed. There is true, unadulterated evil in this world and this film’s leads encounter it face to face and an ultimatum takes shape. Do they cower in fear or do they stop the immoral in hopes of protecting future victims? As they face their very real demons they realize this particular evil has been a lot closer than they realized.
Cold in July took what could have been a simplistic story and turned it into a dramatic thriller filled with horridness, and the journey to that awfulness is bursting with its own tribulations. The characters must face themselves after they commit these acts they are planning on carrying out. Will they be able to? If they survive this will be a very difficult enigma to deal with. Watch as they face evil in others and themselves. A fantastically dark film, Cold in July reaches for something greater and it not only reaches its goal, it holds on with a death grip.
Cold In July is available now on Amazon Instant Video, and will play on Showtime this month.
Rated R For: disturbing bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
Run Time: 109 minutes
After Credits Scene: None
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Wyatt Russell
Directed By: Jim Mickle
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 3.5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
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