FLIX: 'Cold in July'
Cold in July
• CAST: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Vinessa Shaw, Nick Damici, Wyatt Russell, Don Johnson, Brogan Hall, Lanny Flaherty
• DIRECTOR: Jim Mickle
• OPENS: Friday at The Sundance Cinema-Houston
The scene is East Texas 1989.
Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) is sound asleep with his wife, Ann (Vinessa Shaw) and young son, Jordan (Brogan Hall), when he's awakened by a noise in the house.
He pulls out a handgun that has never been fired and is stored in a shoe box, and as he nervously makes his way down the hallway, he comes across an intruder in the living room.
A clock's chime startles Dane, and he accidently shoots and kills the burglar.
The police rule the shooting self-defense and inform Dane that he shot a wanted felon, Freddy Russell (Wyatt Russell).
When Dane asks if Freddy had any family, Police Lt. Ray Price (Nick Damici) informs him Ben Russell (Sam Shepard), the boy's father, was just released from prison.
When Ben shows up around town and outside of Jordan's school - scenes reminiscent of "Cape Fear" - he begins to intimidate Dane, who asks for police protection to keep his family safe.
There are several plot twists along the way, and halfway through the film, we are introduced to Houston private detective and pig farmer Jim Bob Luke.
His red boots match his red Cadillac convertible with a license plate that reads "RED BTCH."
The brilliantly cast Don Johnson as Jim Bob is fun to watch, and his character brings a Coen brothers vibe to the film.
Director Jim Mickle's terrific new piece of noir is a thrilling ride with enough twists to keep you in immersed in suspense. Hall is terrific in the role of Dane, a meek, jittery, picture frame shop owner, a total opposite of his "Dexter" persona.
Shepard is one of the best working actors today, and it's great to see him in a role that's worthy of his talent.
It's a pleasure to see Hall, Shepard and Johnson together on screen, and cinematographer Ryan Samul provides some great shots to frame the lead actors.
The climax is effectively draped in blue lights and sets the mood for the big showdown. I also enjoyed the scene that takes place at the Orbit Drive-In where "Night Of The Living Dead" is playing on the outdoor screen.
The soundtrack by Jeff Grace evokes works by Tangerine Dream and Dynatron's "Cosmo Black" is a synth-driven piece that accentuates its placement in the film, plus White Lion's "Wait" perfectly fits the late '80s narrative.
I was impressed by director Mickle's 2010 vampire film "Stake Land" and last year's cannibalistic family film, "We Are What We Are," and his work continues a natural progression as "Cold In July" combines a great cast with masterful storytelling.
Rating: Four stars