Lukewarm In July

I thought Cold In July was a bit meh and far from the sum of its parts. Here’s what I said on Sunday…

OH DEAR. It turns out that meek middle-American suburbanites have the capacity to become gun-toting, steel-eyed angels of death if the mood takes them. This is the fate of Richard (a be-mulleted Michael C Hall) in Jim Mickle’s vaguely preposterous adaptation of Joe R Lansdale’s crime novel. 

Downing a burglar one night when he hears footsteps in the sitting room, Richard is soon being intimidated by the dead intruder’s tough-as-old-boot-leather father (a show-stealing Sam Shepard). Between police procedural jigs and conspiratorial reels, it emerges that the pair have been duped and the man shot by Richard is not actually who police say he is. Lo and behold, Southern caricature and private investigator Don Jonson turns up to help them get to the bottom of things and go baddie-hunting.

On paper, Cold In July looks like a nicely atmospheric mix of Prisoners-like dark moralising and Bronson-y hard justice. The cast also looks formidable – Hall is hot property following Dexter and Six Feet Under, while Jonson’s powers of self-parody have struck gold before. So why, after a fine opening half, does the whole thing deflate so steadily? 

It must be something to do with the characters, who, apart from Shepard’s grunting old-timer, are not given enough reasons to prance so readily into the bloody finale. Also, writers Mickle and Nick Damici have an annoying habit of killing the noir with comedic one-liners. Genre hopping is all well and good, provided the thread running between is unshakeable. Disappointing. 

First published in the Sunday Independent

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Hilary A White

Dublin-based arts journalist and reviewer, specialising in film, books, music and human-interest stories. Sunday Independent / Irish Independent / State.ie / RTE Radio 1 / Today FM

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