Saturday, November 01, 2014

Cold In July

When people think of Noir films, they tend to imagine high contrast black and white photography and claustrophobic sets, but director Jim Mickle's adaptation of Joe Lansdale's novel COLD IN JULY shows that even out in the bright daylight and blue skies of Texas that things can get as dark as they possibly can be.
   Richard Dane, who runs a frame shop by day is awakened in the night when he and his wife hear an intruder in their house. Dane shoots the man as much by accident as intent and then calls the cops. The local police seem in a hurry to clear the case and get things out of the way, but it turns out that the intruder's father, Ben Russell, was a recently paroled convict and he takes his son's death personally. For a very short time it looks as if Russell is going to play Cape Fear type games with Dane and his wife and young son, but that's not the way it goes. After some suspenseful scenes, Russell is captured and that appears to be that.
   But here's where the Noir kicks in. Things are not at all what they seem and Dane is soon pulled into a web of deceit and death and a world that is Dark, dark, dark, This is where actor Michael C. Hall really shines, playing an everyman who finds himself in way over his head. Hall very believably shows a frightened man whose innate decency is what really gets him into trouble.
   Sam Shepard plays Ben Russell, world weary, beaten down, but with a core of battered iron. A man who does what he thinks he has to, even when it costs him. And Don Johnson brings some serious acting chops to the role of Jim Bob Luke, a private eye who's also a pig farmer. Johnson brings some humor and charm to a very dark film.
   I didn't immediately recognize Vinessa Shaw as Dane's wife Ann, even though, by coincidence, I had just watched her in HOCUS POCUS for Halloween.
   COLD IN JULY was actually the first thing I ever read by Joe Lansdale and that was when it came out in 1989. I remembered some of the plot, but not enough to keep me from enjoying some of the twists and turns the story takes. I really enjoyed the film. It's suspenseful, well written, and well directed and you can't beat the cast. I got my copy from Amazon and I'm sure they have more, so pick it up. Highly recommended.

2 comments:

Renee Voit said...

THIS WAS A GREAT MOVIE. I WOULD BE THRILLED IF DON AND MICHAEL TEAMED UP WITH THE SAME DIRECTOR TO DO ONE OF THE OTHER BOOKS THAT INCLUDE JOE BOB LUKE. I HAVE WATCHED IT 5 TIMES ALREADY, AND HAVE JOE LANDSDALE BOOKS ON ORDER. IT WAS GREAT, CASTING UNBEATABLE!!!!!

Charles R. Rutledge said...

I'd certainly like to see more of Joe Bob as well, Renee.