NEO-NOIR/PARANOID EAST TEXAS THRILLER

Cold in July (2014)

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Pros: cast  Cons: plausibility

“Cold in July” (2014, directed by horror-movie director Jim Mickle from a Joe R. Lansdale novel set in1989 in East Texas (but not filmed there) is puzzling in several ways. Genre is one: it’s a sort of detective story, eventually including a PI, and sort of a horror movie, but I would class it as a pulpy neo-noir at the paranoid thriller end of the noir perspective (with some black humor). A lot of it takes place at night and official conspiracy is at the center of the movie.

The motivations of the protagonist, Richard Dane (played by Michael C. Hall with none of the self-confidence of Dexter Morgan), puzzle me and the movie fails to deliver an explanation of the set-up, what Richard sought to find out.

It is difficult to discuss the movie without plot-spoiling, so I’ll just say that the other two male characters (in their order of appearance)—Russell, played by a laconic Sam Shepard and Jim Bob played by Don Johnson—are also very good. The main female role, Ann Dane (played by Vinessa Shaw) is underwritten: mostly a nag with some moments of fear.

There is some very graphic violence and the frustration of plot holes and implausibility. The local police (headed by screenwriter Nick Damici as Ray Price) might perhaps do what they are shown doing, but there would need to be some reason and none is provided by Damici’s screenplay, which Lansdale (in a Q&A included as a bonus feature) says stuck closely to his novel, more so than he had expected.

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I’m surprised that Johnson did not  get an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. His character recurs in other Lansdale novels, so there may be sequels with Johnson?

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