Cold in July : A Film Review

image Film Directed by Jim Mickle co-written with Nick Damici  Set in East Texas 1989

Guns make people bleed

Michael C. Hall takes the role of an East Texas small business owner who in this re-telling of a 1989 novel of the same name by Joe R. Lansdale goes by the name of Richard Dane in what is know in cinema lore as a neo noir film. He is a married man with a young son and one summer night at home they hear a noise which gets him up and armed with lethal effect as he sort of accidentally spreads the organs of the intruder over his sofa. Enter some musical homage later as the clean up commences. You would be a changed man (or woman) if something of that order happened to you and what bits is that , the metamorphic hyper sensation of the chemical change brought about in his veins and cerebral cortex.

The People

The Everyman is altered and some hobos come along for the ride though a you shouldn’t call Sam – take me seriously – Shepard that nor should you call Melanie Griffiths ex, coincidently recently split with Desperadoes Antonio Banderos. the early ex (twice over) Don Johnson hobos but character actors with leather soles and weathered hangdog hobo looks. This time Johnson either wants to upstage the other two dudes with a crimson Cadillac plated red bitch, as he strides around on his well kept frame like an Austin actor free on the road which in fact is a disguise for him as a private detective based in Houston. He turns in a gritty well thought performance only occasionally getting his jeans and rodeo shirt marked. Once a bit painfully but he often gets the best lines and is fastest to the point ensuring his own safety and that of anyone he takes into his confidence. The saving each other’s ass is a bit hokum, later in the film they have to look out for each other. For an atmosphere of parallel worlds and second identities this cosy ness is a bit fake given the dark arts, the violence which will unleash the more they uncover. The co writer takes a cosy role of bent trusty (not) cop. They also hook a few jokes into the works as, in common with this sort of movie replet with the bigger names they try a little comedy to ease our guilt in consuming this tarnished and grotesque unreality. The real world being vein rich in its gruesome violence.

The Unlikely Connections

Shepard is the father of the ‘apparent’ wasted human life taken by Hall. Suspenseful it is, as this narrative plays out and the hateful character of the apparent wasteful ones dad makes the Everyman’s family life a misery and his misplaced mission; the usual tale – I failed you in life son but I won’t fail you in death – is a kind of twisted logic given in many cinematic sorties.

Trio come together

Johnson, goes by the name Jim Bob, is called upon by his long time friend and fellow war veteran Ben when it occurs to Ben at Rich’s insistence. The story is plausible to Jim Bob and after a couple of days he returns with the wise shrewd head neither of the other two possess and marshals a plan. The three are thoroughly now into a whole different ball game and this crucial change targets us to figure each’s motives. The closeness of the Two veterans is obvious and underlined in the script.


The whole Everyman character is the stick or twist fish out of water Rich persona. While making up the odd tale for Vinnessa who gets to act, shamefully for this consummate Everywoman Actor, who displays all the heartfelt emotion Rich keeps internalized and out of her view. she plays the role as one none the wiser but cutting him a bit of slack because Rich has become part of the man she hoped was inside. This due as earlier events were clearly real and close to terminal. She does know the cost just yet except reminds Rich of the ironmongery bill for the added house security!

Role supplanted

It shades out the lovely Vinnesa Shaw whose bit role as wife to the now differently mental used Rich. She could have had a thing or two to tell us about Richard that he didn’t know about himself. Richard happens to inwardly see fault in himself, not a proper male maybe, as this reality of killing someone has for him brought out the maleness and a violent side which both sexes are required to suppress and do so successfully as it is what progresses society and is the wish of God who empowers us to be peaceful human beings if only were able to.

Nature of violence

So many make contact with this vengance filled hysteria and irrationality. Of the nations the dangerous destroy the peace keepers. Look at the new fueled sectarian hatred created by the inflicted separatism brought about by Britain and the US in Iraq whose plan of maintaining separation was one Iraq was (like Northern Ireland) never going to solve with false representational Government and no strategic talking and restitution. The petrol cowboy claimants now at the forefront already with many stolen cash filled war chests have enough to start a new fascist regime. These people are the same as the Wests directors of Wars and they destroy their peoples futures, the future of Everyman, and Woman. They have taken myth as Northern Ireland, religiousity, and forgotten the truth claiming for their ‘people’ this revenge seen in this film as a pattern of deranged minds.


Without being too theologian it reminds me that Jesus in the Gospel found HIS knowledge of God the Father, HIS Father held not the flesh as the source but the knowledge within. This lesson even learnt by no less than Leo Tolstoy but left aside by the religiously reformed and well placed Karl Marx whose interpretation left narrow paths of forgiveness and no read consciousness implicit in the Word of God. History of … Vinessa would say he is very normal and a bit broody. His emotions are suppressed most of the time and yes I suppose he would be susceptible to auto suggestion if fearful and challenged since he doesn’t communicate that well with me (Vinessa) so it plays out as a neo noir with nods to Cronenberg and Tarintino.

Parallel Worlds and Words

It uncomfortably recalls Cronenburgs The History of Violence in terms of originality. The similarity begins with the Everyman figure Michael, in The History of Violence, Tom Stall played by Viggo Mortensen and his quiet life, living with lawyer wife played by Maria Bello and their two children in the town of Millbrook, Indiana. In self defence one night at his diner he kills two would be robbers. See any similarities so far? He becomes the hero as he has also saved lives and this turns around his own sense of self and his outward identity. Instead of taking on the enforcer role he is challenged by another hobo, this time replace Sam Shepard with menacing mysterious almost lookalikey Ed Harris. The psychology is the same if the responses somewhat different but it is a shoehorn half baked tale of immersive pandering to violence and this time it goes so far as to assert itself as being A HISTORY it is oven cooked rougher to the boil cold blooded derangement fulfilled for our sakes as a fictional tale. A fairly mediocre one at that as mister everyman (good cinema name) which has not moved the noir on to become a neo noir and is a thriller with frames cut and sprayed into disembodiment for effective squirm making from the safety of a cinema seat. We even have the change in directorial nudge courteously of the darkened night shots, well shot and framed detail, cinema period referencing and the new Motorola brick paying Jim Bob as a hokum in wonder of this great toy, the Cell. The director sets out to project cinema gore as tangible stuff, he lays on the second half what is tenderly acknowledged as ‘the truth’ in a video. Another branch of film making unacknowledged as fodder a skin away from the B movie genre. This in fact is tasteful sycophancy if not yet appreciated by the participants. One role is the appreciation. The three are therefore in a bind with the uncomfortable knowledge this other cinema fodder brings. This pivotal point is one of the memorable strikes hit by the actors. Michael C. Hall consistently the best actor, creating what is a superb role despite the neo noir imaginings, he has arrived in a new world which is familiar as deep down awareness now surfaces; he after all has been there himself and lightbulb moment, realises he has rejected the violence. This however is just the same and while trying to curtail any more premature deaths. Being in possession of this video knowledge is not a stroll in a mini cab around the A to Z of London’s streets but a perilous encounter with the Everyman village in East Texas. Life in the time of ghosts appearing in your life re-shaping Richs soul, unaccountably taking control but in a destructive way.

Two films

What we make of the early Ben father character who was in incarceration and having been released, visits the graveyard for the funeral and makes insinuations. “Nice family” kind of thing, with face pulling cartoon trigger happy go lucky kind of fellow, a bit of a hawk is not in the scope of the film anyway convincing despite it taking up the early cop chase (god forbid any suggestion the co-writer wanted frame time under trees in the pouring rain, shop visits, home visits – as he writes nothing in the later part nor explains, given his excursion what his shtik is) The Ben part is due to the script patchy but up Sams current wages street. Certainly the Ben character is the missing link which triggers Michael but need it have been so lingering on the (disappearing) cops antics. Join the mad and bad. Be resourceful and protective even if it hasn’t actually come across yet.

Pernickety Valley Finaghy East Texas

People in East Texas must get a bit browned off at this sort of caper and it is hot in summer, especially in July and dusty. There is also water and green gorgeous pastures peacefully flourishing there as a thing of beauty. Wise guys write songs and tend horses and talk hinges out in sweltering heat firing up refrigeration and air conditioning in a manner likely to cause mini climate changes but hell it blows over. It kind of is a straight jacket place with few visible sides. That is cinemas and media stereotyping denying other pioneering insights. A conspiracy can be sorted with jail or an electric chair or winging at democrats.

Conclusion 4####

This is a brave attempt at creating compelling narrative and drama around the neo noir crime and thriller Everyman through American eyes. It has pace, complexity, just believable connections, Hyde outcomes and straight jacketed stereotyping for the modern day B movie addictive movie goer. It is hot in July as we know and this film can be watched from the comfort of an air conditioned cinema. The QFT air conditioning works brilliantly, can be taken as July evening shock factor form as the outside evening cools and the evening lights near their on time. It is synthed with a modern score not overplayed and keeps your attention throughout and the Everyman character is carried off triumphantly by the abundance of nuanced and not so nuanced demands of this role. Of the others there is a lot to like about the Vinnessa Shaw character and the son even plays his part very well but it will be quite a few years before it is made known to him, we hope that the content is relatively cheerless violent provocative cinema.

At QFT. Friday 27 June through to Thursday 10 July 2014.

Enjoy summer cinema wherever you are.

John Graham

18 June 2014




July is interesting I found out from a woman who is 87 this week. She has ambitions to last beyond 100 which she tells me is quite possible if you were born around July, she stresses this important wisdom, as she knows three old – her words not mine – biddies knocking on all about 103, 104 and having a good laugh at their joint good fortune. How many replacement parts they have I didn’t ask.

East Texas is not as tough as Finaghy so the old folk must be OK out there if born into Julys cold heat. Now it is cold bloc here referred to I take it. A pun in use I surmise.

Just when the business of film making is making headway in Northern Ireland our little backwater is described by Game of Thrones executives as a Game of Thorns with a prickly undercurrent of lameness at the cosmopolitan heart so the spiel from the likes of Arlene Foster as Director of Tourism and other spin topics is not convincing.

They are destroying the arts – a massive break for Northern Ireland Screen is one thing – but the actually cultural heart of this place is being choked at its creative springs. Along with Fracking, wrecking Lough Neagh, our coastline and the destruction of our city by more demolition of cosmopolitan buildings other cities would cry out for, the Assembly is without a currency of ideas.

It seems the Film industry is embracing the unreality as much as Everyman is aware and happy to elect such careerists. There is every prospect of Golf saving everything apparently and to have a British Open Golf tournament, no sooner than 2018!!! will only cost the loss of the last two holes, as they do not accommodate the grandstands on both sides as they are. The alternative is to, of course, no pun intended, make holes one and two the last two holes and keep the topography of the idiosyncrasy unsuitable final holes into the future we hope.

The course is precisely such an acclaimed one due to its foibles and a mulligan save is needed. Don’t be putting any money on Rory McIlroy to win it as he insists he is not a Links Golfer

Revised World Cup view. Brazil will come good and win beating Germany.

Happy days.