Derivative, implausible but nevertheless entertaining, Cold in July is a diverting bit of genre nonsense that works well enough on it’s own terms.
Sporting a mullet that isn’t too over the top but nevertheless provides a continual reminder of the film’s 1989 setting, family man Richard Dane (Michael C Hall) accidentally shoots a young intruder in his home. The police don’t ask too many questions, given that it was an act of self defence. However, the dead boy’s equally criminal father has just been released from prison, and begins to act all Max Cady around Dane, making the usual veiled threats against his family and so forth.
The film then lurches into an altogether unexpected direction in a very twisty-turny way. Too twisty-turny, to be honest. Suspension of disbelief becomes increasingly difficult given the sheer amount of improbabilities that ensue, but in spite of this the film is enjoyable, thanks to smart, stylish direction from Jim Mickle and some very solid performances.
Said performances don’t just include Hall, but also supporting turns from Sam Shepherd and Don Johnson, the three of whom form a somewhat unusual investigative posse in the second act. Drastic shifts in tone constantly threaten to derail the film, yet somehow the winning performances make it just about hang together, even if I did come away feeling as though the entire thing was ultimately much ado about nothing.
I conclude with the usual warnings about strong violence, swearing and the like, for those who appreciate them. But then again, Cold in July is the kind of sweaty, hard-boiled pulp where such content is a prerequisite.