Jim Mickle’s latest feature film is a slippery creature. A film that transforms into something you don’t initially expect, Cold in July deviates from its original focus and ventures down dark avenues where creepy things lurk. At the heart of all of this is Richard Dane, a hard working picture-framer, a loyal husband and a protective father. We first enter the home of the Danes at the same time as a burglar. Richard faces the intruder, which results in him shooting the stranger who has entered his home. From the opening moment of the film, Richard’s life is not only interrupted but intruded upon. Whilst trying to recover from the shock of killing a man, Richard is suddenly faced with the father of the deceased who poses a threat to Richard and his content family life. Just when the film looks set to play out similarly to J. Lee Thompson’s Cape Fear (not the abominable Scorsese and De Niro collaboration), the tables turn once more. As the film continues it begins to unravel into a sinister criminal mystery story. The tables don’t really stop turning until the movie’s final half hour in which suspense, revenge and violence collide in a bloody collage of 80s synth, gun shots and denim. Cold in July will remind you of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and it might just be the grittiest crime thriller since.
The Danes are typical Texan folk, working hard and coming home to their nest after each routine day. Michael C. Hall gives a sturdy performance as an anxious father trying to protect his loved ones. As the narrative develops, so does Richard, thanks to Hall’s intelligent treatment of his character. Everything Richard feels is kept just below the surface, making Richard both anxious and guarded. Sam Shepard’s character also shows obvious change throughout Cold in July. Shepard plays Russell, Richard’s threat and the equivalent of Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear. He harbours great anger beneath a quiet exterior which makes him even more terrifying. Don Johnson brings comedy and mischief to his character, an eccentric detective who helps the film change pace in its second half. Cold in July leaves questions unanswered and loose ends untied but it remains a really enjoyable and stylish film. The film slightly loses focus in the final chapter, intent on intensifying the plot rather than keeping its characters convincing but, nonetheless, Cold in July is entertaining, witty and captivating. It is undoubtedly one of this year’s must-sees at Edinburgh International Film Festival.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.