Mullets and mayhem.
Michael C. Hall is one of those under the radar actors — brilliant, but doesn’t get the same kind of accolades that some of his more famous, albeit, less talented colleagues receive. I began admiring his career after seeing him on the HBO series Six Feet Under, alongside Peter Krause (Parenthood). But it wasn’t until I blew through eight seasons of Dexter in record time, that I really jumped on the Michael C. Hall
bandwagon. Still, I wondered if his talent extended beyond this career defining role as a serial killer whose tools of the trade include plastic sheeting and syringes full of the sedative Etorphine. His latest role convinces me without a doubt, that this guy is no fluke. Hall is an exceptional actor, who can easily and convincingly go from the slickly dressed, and uber-confident serial killer Dexter, to the mullet wearing, and less than secure East Texas husband and father Richard Dane in the thrilling little drama Cold in July.
Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall), is your typical mild-mannered frame store owner who kills an intruder breaking into his home. What seems like a simple case of self-defense, gets real complicated when Russel (Sam Shepard, August: Osage County), the deceased’s ex-con father, shows up looking for revenge. At first fearful of the ex-con, Richard begins to realize that both are unwilling pawns in someone else’s sick game; causing the former foes to become unlikely partners in order to uncover the truth.
Cold in July is directed by Jim Mickle who also wrote the screenplay. In addition, Mickle has two other very fine films under his belt —Stakeland, and We Are What We Are. He is a talent you need to keep an eye on, a filmmaker who knows how to tell a story and get great performances out of the long list of talented actors that appear in his films.
Based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale, the story takes place in East Texas 1989, when mullets were king, and plaid shirts with wide and colorful polyester ties were worn with pride. Michael C. Hall plays Richard Dane, an average guy lost in a mundane life with his wife and young son. Until one late night his house is burglarized and he kills the intruder, unwittingly becoming a participant in someone’s hidden agenda. If you’re expecting Dexter with a bad haircut here, forget that right now. Richard is not a man accustomed to killing, in fact his gun is in a shoe box in his closet, and the damn thing isn’t even loaded.
What follows however, is the awakening of Richard Dane. Before the break in, he is afraid to take any chances that would upset his carefully crafted life. But after the bungled burglary and the deception by police, Richard is forced out of his stagnant existence in order to protect his family. Richard uncharacteristically takes matters into his own hands, to prove to Russel that both men are being deceived by unseen forces, who want him to stop drawing attention to that fateful night. Michael C. Hall is fantastic! His performance is vulnerable in the early stages of the film, but he also shows the strength that begins to grow in Richard as he takes on these hidden foes. Hall makes us believe in the transformation of Richard, we buy that this formerly introverted man would risk his life to save his family.
Richard joins forces with two rough around the edges sextagenarians played by Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson (Miami Vice). Shepard is solid as the guilt ridden father who spent his son’s formative years in the hoosegow, and feels responsible that the young man followed in his footsteps. He hopes to make amends by enacting revenge on Richard for taking his son’s life, but the two men form an unlikely friendship.
As fantastic as Hall and Shepard are, my favorite performance belongs to Mr. Don Johnson. Having long ago shed the slick cars and pastel clothing of his Miami Vice days, Johnson has become a formidable actor, whose boyish good looks have matured into the handsome manly-man he is today. Johnson plays Jim Bob, a private detective who is an old war buddy of Russel. He goes above and beyond the call of duty to help his friend find out the truth regarding his son. Johnson might be seen as the comic relief to Shepard and Hall’s more serious roles, but Jim Bob is more than just a good ol’ boy with a quick wit. He is a smart no nonsense PI, whose level headedness not only keeps the trio alive, but leads them down the path to discover the ugly truth.
The relationship between these three men is the heart and soul of Cold in July. All of them are looking, in one way or another, for some kind of redemption; hoping to find it by uncovering the truth that others are trying to hide.
MPI’s Cold in July (Blu-ray) is a 2.35:1/1080p HD presentation that uses vivid colors and nuanced lighting to perfectly frame the story of the film. The DTS 5.1 Master Audio provides crystal clear dialogue, accompanied by a wonderful and unobtrusive soundtrack that contains some classic ’80s tunes which brings back lots of good memories. Extras include a very interesting Q&A with director Jim Mickle, alongside novelist Joe R. Lansdale, and a surprising guest, Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin; believe me, fun was had by all. Also included are cast and crew commentaries, deleted scenes, computer generated pre-visualisation tests of certain scenes, and the films’ trailer.
Michael C. Hall proves he is much more than just a pretty-faced serial killer, carrying this very weighty film on his shoulders, while effectively sharing the spotlight with two of Hollywood’s talented elder statesmen.
Dexter approves, and so do I. Not guilty
Cold in July (Blu-ray)
2014, MPI, 110 minutes, R (2014)
VIDEO: 2.40:1 (1080p) AUDIO: DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)SUBTITLES: English (SDH), Spanish
EXTRAS: Commentaries, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Trailer ACCOMPLICES: IMDB