Cold in July (Jim Mickle, 2014)

Compelling and appealingly seedy well beyond the norm, Cold in July focuses on the aftermath of the Dane family patriarch’s (Michael C. Hall) killing of a home invader. With the victim purportedly being the son of a recently paroled convict (Sam Shepard), an imminent conflictual tug-of-war ensues. Soon enough, the cold truth behind the tragedy turns from black-and-white to grey, prompting Richard to aid steadfastly in unearthing an ever-expanding conspiracy – one that tests the resolve of all involved.

Although familiar revenge thriller tropes dominate the film’s first third, Mickle’s assured portrait of late-’80s Texan Americana lends itself wonderfully to the proceedings. Agreeably taut in spite of itself, Cold in July‘s preliminary exposition aptly conveys the perils of small-town life, what with (seemingly) good news traveling a bit too fast if only to exacerbate things for the Dane family. The stakes remain about as high as they can get, pushing well-intentioned and obviously afflicted Richard to the brink as an inherent pulpiness helps the film transcend rudimentary genre fare.

Branding Cold in July as an out-and-out noirish nail-biter at this point wouldn’t be wrong, what the narrative transitioning from procedural to bleakly uncertain with the utmost competence and confidence. Despite this rather jarring shift in trajectory, Mickle’s steady hand once again ensures our involvement as core characters come together to extinguish a certain evil. Needless to say, copious blood and viscera permeate the film’s latter act amid twist after twist, however it all remains surprisingly pitch-perfect given how impressively the proceedings are crafted.

As an at-first elementary thriller laden with era-infused grime and pulp, Cold in July soon surpasses expectations as it full-on morphs into an increasingly intricate tale of deceit and the lengths to which these individuals go to uncover the truth they seek. Embracing its obviously neo-noir sensibilities to a near faultless degree, frequent collaborators Mickle and Damici transform Cold in July‘s source inspiration into something accessible and intermittently enthralling as such, even in light of the inevitable gripes its presentation and substance may evoke in some viewers.

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