“Cold in July” | Movie Review

Grade (B)

A grim crime-drama with compelling performances from the leads and a story-line that keeps you on the edge of your seat and hanging to see the outcome.

“COLD IN JULY” tells the story of common Texas citizen Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) and the events that take place in his life after a seemingly normal night will change things forever.

While sleeping, someone breaks into his house and to protect his wife and young child he inadvertently shoots the burglar. The small town heralds him a hero despite his desire for the attention to go away. Things will take a dangerous turn when he meets the father of the man he killed, ex-con Russel (Sam Shepard) and begins to suspect the man intends to do harm to his family as revenge.

There have been many occasions where a cast will look great on paper and the final result is less then impressive, luckily this film delivered the strong performances you would expect from veteran cast members Sam Shepard and Don Johnson. Michael C. Hall who still is building his resume adds another great role to it as he continues to deliver strong, convincing performances such as his portrayal of common family man Dane in this one.

The cast performances were only a skilled representation of the excellently written script that allowed for each of them to have their individual moments. The script also build many scenarios to boast the collective chemistry between the three and the result was great for adding tension to a gripping crime-drama. The intelligently written dialogue delivered many moments of intriguing conversation as the story-line progressed. You can feel yourself learning more about all the characters as the story progresses which adds enlightenment to the message of the script and its tone.

The initial plot got going rather quickly which was excellent for building intrigue quick. As the script continues you think you know how it will play out until the entire plot theme takes a surprising swing in the middle of the second-act. For me the tension only raised when the story-line took a sudden change in direction and all the presumed predictability I had, was suddenly out the door. For that aspect it kept my interest throughout and I found myself really interested in how things would play out for all involved.

The settings and backdrops were great and easily conveyed the tone of the region. The locations, added with the subtly intense script mixed with the characters and wardrobes resulted in an enjoyable 80’s era crime-drama with a very gritty feel. There was not a lot of action in this one but when the script did call for it, the result was excellent. The sequences felt realistically visceral and with some creative camerawork the violence and brutal style was perfectly captured, only building the tension more. The violence came in doses with some close-quarter settings that put right into the action using perfect angles and lighting that added to the suspenseful situations.

My favorite role was from Don Johnson, whether it was nostalgia or not, I felt he delivered a great performance and provided a major bonus to the enjoyment despite having less time onscreen then Hall and Shepard. Regardless he was easy able to step right and in and when the film began to slow a little, his introduction reinvigorated the mood and enjoyment.

On the downside, while I did like the story-line and the directions it took, I was slightly taken by why Hall’s character would have made many of the decisions he did. Being a family man with a young son at home, to put himself in the situations he did was hard for me to relate to. With some added writing or more development of his character early on I think the motivation behind his character decisions would have been more clear thus done a lot to add plausibility to an already strong script.

Overall this was a great crime-drama and is worth a watch merely to enjoy the performances of Hall, Shepard and Johnson alone. The fact it adds a tense story-line that draws your attention and keeps you in the dark to the end result only makes it better. Adding some quick, violent action that builds on the tense moments are what round it all out to make this quality film and without question worth a viewing.