After accidentally killing a burglar, Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) finds himself threatened and stalked by the victim’s estranged father (Sam Shepard), setting up an effective if unremarkable pulpy thriller. It’s Hall’s first breakout role since Dexter and his screen presence just about manages to keep all the twists in check, helping to make some strange character decisions not as outrageous as they might appear. You can really feel his anguish and the fallout from the fatal event which brings about his character transformation. A major supporting role from Sam Shepard helps to give the film the necessary seediness, the whole thing smelling of the Texan underbelly, whilst Don Johnson shows up half way through as an eccentric private detective, somewhat jarring the film’s previously austere seriousness.
Whilst it’s generally strong on atmosphere it suffers on plotting as the film’s menace is not always totally developed. Its plot ends up getting a bit lost and by the conclusion, the tension is only just hanging onto its convoluted threads. Cold in July doesn’t feel like it’s really about anything, it’s hard to find any thematic ideas tying it together nor is there a feeling of conclusion, which emphasises how it’s a film not without merit but certainly not fully realised.
Cold in July is out now in the UK. Running time 109 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
Review by David Rank