Cold in July: Sometimes the Good Guys Win

Last night I saw the film “Cold in July” at The Little. The film was riveting, suspenseful and at points quite funny. I recommend you all check it out while it’s still in theaters.

The film is set in 1980′s East Texas and has all the loveable caricatures one would expect to find during that period. They drink Lone Star, go to diners, wear cowboy hats and do Texas shit (i.e. shooting cans, having mullets, cooking bacon etc.). The movie opens with Richard Dane (played by Michael Hall of Dexter fame) waking up to the sound of someone breaking into his home. It didn’t occur to me that it was Michael Hall until around 15 minutes in (it was probably his sweet mullet). Shaking Richard loads a revolver from his closet and slinks into the hallway where he sees a flashlight coming from the living room. As Richard enters the living room, he confronts the masked intruder. Startled, Dane’s finger slips and he paints the back wall of his family room red. What this film did better than any other I’ve seen is to portray the damage that such an event can have on someone who is just a “regular” person.

After the shooting, the local Sheriff Ray Price played by Nick Damici makes his first appearance. He’s your typical movie Sheriff; he has a killer mustache and he doesn’t take any bull. Something didn’t seem quite right about him as he explains to Richard that, “sometimes the good guys win.” Richard struggles with his conscious in the aftermath of the incident and tries to lead a “normal” life. I’m not sure how it could have been avoided but there were a few cliché scenes in the movie. When Richard walks into a diner and everyone stops to look at him, I rolled my eyes a bit.

We first meet Ben Russel (played by Sam Shepard) the alleged father of the victim at the funeral that Richard reluctantly attends. Russel is terrifying and the initial scenes and interactions between him and Richard are riveting and suspenseful. Russel oozes creepiness and makes the kinds of comments that send chills down your spine. His character was the most complex and conflicted in the film.

The police catch Ben and Richard can finally rest easy. This is where the movie takes one of many unexpected turns. Without giving too much away, eventually Russel and Richard team up and work together to find the truth about what happened that fateful night.  Around this point is when we meet the smooth talking Jim Bob played by Don Johnson. The interplay between the three of them is magical and creates some quaint moments that help to lighten the mood. We follow the “Three Amigos” as they search for the truth about Russel’s son.

One scene I found particularly memorable was when Jim Bob is on his cellular phone at the drive in theater and is yelling into the receiver that the person on the other end is breaking up. The irony was not lost on me as I watched him then get back into his car and talk about how great his phone is. I was immediately reminded of the big phone guy from Trigger Happy TV.

The audience learns that Russel’s son is participating in some heinous after school activities. At this point we learn that there exists a sort of chivalrous moral code that even most hardened criminals refuse to break. These revelations about Russel’s son lead to a great exchange between Russel and Richard.

What do you do with a dog that turns and bites someone? You have two options, either chain it up or put it down.

That’s crazy are you talking about killing your own son?

Well I can’t very well chain him up can I?

After the three Amigo’s go all “Howdy Doody” on Russel’s son and his associates, the audience is still left with one unresolved question: who did Richard kill that fateful night in his living room? I enjoyed this movie and hope that you people go check it out. Let me know what you think in the comments below I’ve also included some reviews that agree with me that I found interesting below.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

My San Antonio

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