Directed by: Jim Mickle
Written by: Nick Damici & Jim Mickle
Cinematography: Ryan Samul
by Tory Maddox
Jim Mickle’s latest is his first out of the horror genre and it delivers just as well. Richard’s (Michael C. Hall) life is upended when he shoots a burglar dead in his home. Later he’s confronted by the dead burglar’s father, Ben Russell (Sam Shepard), who threatens the Richard’s family. Richard discovers that the murdered man actually wasn’t Ben’s son, and the police aren’t strangely uninterested in opening up the investigation. Eventually it’s discovered that the actual son of Ben Russell, Freddy (Wyatt Russell), is alive and operating a snuff porn operation, which, along with the police, is connected to an organized crime racket called the Dixie Land Mafia.
I’m blown away by how little this film was discussed. It’s easily one of the most underrated films of the last few years. I imagine many would compare to the low budget Engine-that-could, Blue Ruin (2013), except while BR takes a quirky character and places him into a violent revenge story, Cold in July takes an all star cast and immerses us into the 1980s, in what is one of the best period films about the decade - not that there are many. The movie is strange, and as always from Mickle, beautifully shot. He brings back Damici and Russell and put them into awesome roles. Wyatt Russell flips his role from We Are What We Are and plays a greasy slime ball that you appreciate all the more so when compared to his righteous small town officer role in WAWWA.
The movie uses the synth pop score that so many cheap 80s crime films utilized. I don’t feel as though I’m watching a period piece so much as a long lost film from the decade. It starts out a little slow, and while I was initially frustrated with the pace, it all pays off in the end when the story picks up steam. The film is equal parts Blood Simple-Coens and 90s Tarantino, of which most imitations are far inferior, but blends so well with Mickle’s own style that it feels original and fresh.
The story was adapted from Joe R. Lansdale’s novel of the same name, who in an interview with Mickle and interesting bit of trivia, we see with George R.R. Martin in the audience who was an early champion of the work and personal friend of Lansdale. Lansdale loves to hear himself talk, yet seems like the real deal with Southern Culture. He compared himself to Dennis Lehane who did for Boston what he was trying to do for the South. The story is exciting to watch and now I’m waiting anxiously for Mickle’s next non-horror film, which looks to be a mini-series called Hap and Leonard. Who knows what this will be.
BELOW: Unfortunately, after much searching, I can no longer find the interview on YouTube with Mickle, Lansdale, and George R.R. Martin. Here's an alternative with Mickle and Lansdale.
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