Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Cold in July

Based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale, Cold in July is the story of a man who finds himself in trouble after killing a low-life criminal as that man’s father arrives for revenge. Directed by Jim Mickle and screenplay by Mickle and Nick Damici, the film is an exploration into the world of violence as a man who was trying to protect his family is forced to deal with his own actions as he is targeted for doing the right thing. Starring Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw, Wyatt Russell, Nick Damici, and Sam Shepard. Cold in July is an eerie yet mesmerizing film from Jim Mickle.

Set in 1989 East Texas, the film revolves a man who killed a burglar in his house only to realize that the man’s father has arrived into town seeking vengeance. Yet, it’s a film that plays into a man who was just trying to protect his family where he finds himself discovering some dark secrets as well as the identity of who he killed as it becomes clear that he and this man who has been going after him are part of something far more troubling. Especially as it concerns the world of a local mafia and other things prompting these two men to seek the help of a private investigator. It’s a film that does have elements of film noir but it is more about a simple family man who is just trying to protect his family while helping another man find out about the son he never knew.

The film’s screenplay is set into a world where morals are falling by the wayside into something that is filled with corruption and power. Even as Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) wonders if the man he killed is really named Freddy Russell as the sense of intrigue would emerge as he would also turn to Russell’s father Ben (Sam Shepard) to see if Richard really did kill Freddy or was it some other man. The mystery would prompt Ben to call in his old friend Jim Bob Luke (Don Johnson) who is a private investigator that has been trying to track down Freddy for Ben. It leads into some serious questions about what to do as well as a simple family man trying to bring his own sense of justice when he realizes that the people he’s supposed to trust to protect his own family have their own agendas.

Jim Mickle’s direction is truly gripping in terms of not just the way he creates an air of suspense but also in how he maintains a very dark and seedy mood into a world that looks simple but full of corruption and intrigue. Especially as Mickle maintains something that feels like a film that is shot in a small town in Texas though the film was actually shot in places in the state of New York. Still, Mickle does make the settings look and feel like it’s shot in East Texas in the late 1980s while creating some dazzling compositions to play into Richard’s sense of fear and paranoia where he would be in the background while the clock on his nightstand is in the foreground. The usage of medium and wide shots are also evident as it plays into the growing discord that is emerging in Richard’s family life as they have no idea how to cope with what happened to them early in the film as Mickle maintains some dramatic tension between Richard and his wife Ann (Vinessa Shaw).

The direction also has Mickle setting some moods for the film’s second half that includes Jim Bob’s introduction which is off the wall as he is this offbeat P.I. that seems to enjoy dressing up like a cowboy. Jim Bob is a man that seems to come from a world where things were simple and were doing what is right is important. Especially as Mickle makes the compositions more dream-like and more unsettling as the film progresses into its third act where it involves all sorts of seedy ventures that plays into a world that is terrifying. Its climax isn’t just bloody and violent but also has this sense of setting the world back into place. Overall, Mickle creates a very chilling yet enthralling film about a family man trying to gain some peace following a dark and violent encounter with a burglar.

Cinematographer Ryan Samul does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography as it is infused with style for many of the scenes at night with its approach to colored filters as well as textures for its approach to lighting for the scenes at night. Editors Jim Mickle and John Paul Horstmann do fantastic work with the editing with its approach to slow-motion cuts and other rhythmic cuts to play into its suspense. Production designer Russell Barnes, with set decorator Daniel R. Kersting and art director Annie Simeone, does excellent work with the look of Richard‘s home as well as his father‘s cabin as well as the home of Jim Bob.

Costume designer Elisabeth Vastola does nice work with the costumes as it plays into the look of the late 80s from the clothes that Ann wears to the wild clothes of Jim Bob. Sound editor Lewis Goldstein does amazing work with the sound from some of the smaller moments that play into the suspense to the more chaotic moments of violence including a chilling sequence on a rainy night. The film’s music by Jeff Grace is incredible for its very intoxicating score that is largely electronic with its brooding synthesizer-based music with elements of piano pieces to play into the drama and suspense while the music soundtrack by music supervisor Joe Rudge consists of largely country music of the past and the rock music of the 1980s including the band White Lion.

The casting by Sig De Miguel and Stephen Vincent is superb as it features some notable small performances from Larry Flaherty as a mailman Richard knows, Brogan Hall as Richard and Ann’s son Jordan, Rachel Zeiger-Haag as a co-worker of Richard, and Wyatt Russell as a mysterious criminal that is linked to these dark crimes that Jim Bob has been looking for. Nick Damici is terrific as the detective Ray Price who would help Richard early on to go after Ben only to hide things that would make Richard question things. Vinessa Shaw is superb as Richard’s wife Ann as a woman who is also scared over what is happening as she is also confused by Richard’s strange behavior as she is concerned with protecting her own son.

Don Johnson is brilliant as Jim Bob Luke as a private investigator who arrives for the film’s second half to uncover this mysterious world of crime in Texas as it relates to a local mafia while dealing with a world that is becoming more complicated. Sam Shepard is fantastic as Ben Russell as a man who initially goes after Richard for killing his son until he gets himself into trouble of his own as he wonders what is going on as he aids Richard into uncovering the truth about what his son might be involved in. Finally, there’s Michael C. Hall in an excellent performance as Richard Dane as a simple family man whose life unravels following a burglary in his home as he copes with fear as well as the darker aspects of those who are supposed to help him as Hall brings a restraint and an everyman quality that makes his performance so engaging to watch.

Cold in July is a phenomenal film from Jim Mickle that features tremendous performances from Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson. The film isn’t just this dark and hypnotic noir-based film but also a film where a man whose simple act to protect his family has him coping with a world that is far more treacherous and unforgiving. In the end, Cold in July is a sensational film from Jim Mickle.

© thevoid99 2015


Ruth said...

Boy it's been ages since I saw Don Johnson in anything.The plot here sounds like a gripping one, might give this a rent.

thevoid99 said...

He's been around in films lately like Django Unchained and (unfortunately) The Other Woman. Plus, his recent appearance at SNL w/ his ex-wife for their daughter was funny.