I was expecting “Cold In July” with Micheal Hall of “Dexter” fame to be a thriller with glimmers of “Cape Fear”, “Straw Dogs” and Clint Eastwood revenge sparkles; but what I got was much more. Let’s say a morality tale with exquisite depth! Find this film and savor the pacing, the suspense, the characterizations and the photography of Ryan Samul. Samul’s frames of half car sides and half foreground are fresh and artful. His slow motion and pan shots campy with gas price signage, hog callers and pimped-out cars: All capturing East Texas in 1989. One scene has Michael Hall, as Dane, turn blood-red in psychological reflection of the mayhem.
The screenplay writer, Jim Mickle, is also the director. His use of comic relief close to perfection. I would not be surprised at an Oscar nod for best book adaptation. The source material is the novel of the same name. I was so impressed with the story that I checked author Joe Lansdale out on Amazon. Unknown to me, he is an award winning sixty-two year old Texan with over thirty novels in this thriller genre. The hardback I wished to purchase was listed for 135 dollars, and alas the used hardback was 59. Collectors have taken note.
Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell’s son,Wyatt Russell, plays the vilest part imaginable. His character works for “The Dixie Mafia”, again a new world for me. Sam Shephard portrays Ben, the newly released ex-con, and is outstanding. His relationship with Jim Bob, played by Don Johnson is based on a Korean War experience that saved Jim Bob’s life. Age has been kind to Johnson: his eyes glint with energy to spare. Besides the war buddy history, Jim Boy bursts on the screen as a private investigator whose eccentricities steal more than a few scenes. Michael Hall is praise-worthy, too. From his wife- protecting lies to his outbursts misdirected at his toddler,Dane (Hall) moves from framer/salesman to truth-seeking macho gun slinger.
But now to the morality tale,which I can not divulge without spoiling the joy. Just let me say that this film so well mixes the strata of classes that real growth and human understanding sing out: guns and blood be damned.