Texas, they do not need “stand your ground laws.” Instead, they apply the “did
he have it coming” standard. As a
result, not too many people are concerned when Richard Dane accidentally kills
a home intruder, least of all the police. However, the deceased’s ex-con father
seems somewhat put-out by it all in Jim Mickle’s Cold in July, which screens during this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
is hardly an action hero. He truly did not intend to kill Freddy Russell when
he interrupted the burglar at work. The
situation just made him understandably jumpy. Ray Price (the cop on the case,
rather than the Nixon speechwriter) is happy to sweep the entire incident under
the rug, but not Ben Russell. Released just in time for his estranged son’s funeral,
he soon starts threatening Dane and his family. At first, Price assumes he is
just posturing, but things escalate quickly.
Then the first game-changing shoe drops.
from Joe R. Lansdale’s novel, July starts
out as a conventional home invasion-revenge thriller, but radically shifts
gears in the second act, veering into Andrew Vachss territory. While it appropriately has the dusty noir
look of Jim Thompson films, it is way darker than even The Killer Inside Me. There are scenes here that sensitive viewers
might wish they could “unsee.”
it is brutally effective when it gets down to business. The late 1980’s period
details also help the film’s thriller dynamics, taking the internet and cell
phones (aside from a running Gordon Gekko style gag) out of the picture. It all
ends in a bloody and ironic place that should satisfy genre fans.
C. Hall does decent work as Dane, but he is simply overwhelmed by the seriously
hardboiled Sam Shepard, seething like mad as the senior Russell. Yet, Don
Johnson chews more scenery and out hardnoses everyone as Jim Bob Luke, a sort
of gunslinger recruited into the bloody family feud. As a further bonus, Mickle’s
co-writer Nick Damici adds some distinctively noir seasoning as Price, the
Stylish, intense, and at times blackly comic, July is a slickly executed criminal
morality play. However, it might be too strong for Lifetime and Hallmark
Channel viewers. Recommended for hardy film noir connoisseurs, Cold in July screens today (1/20) in
Salt Lake and tomorrow (1/21), Thursday (1/23), and Saturday (1/25) in Park
City, as part of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Labels: Don Johnson, Film Noir, Sundance '14