Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cold in July

I mentioned last September that I'd be kind of disappointed if Cold in July broke my string of seeing Jim Mickle's movies with the director himsel fin attendence. Well, it's broken; Mr. Mickle did not (to the best of my knowledge) make a trip to Boston for opening weekend. That's the happy result, I guess, of making movies fast enough that there's not a full festival cycle between them.

That's a shame; I'd love to hear Mickle talk about Joe Lansdale and doing something that's more of a straight crime movie after a career more focused on horror.

Cold in July

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 23 May 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square #6 (first-run, DCP)

Joe R. Lansdale is a writer much beloved by crime & horror fans but who has never really broken through to mainstream recognition the way contemporaries like Steven King and Clive Barker have; Jim Mickle is an independent genre filmmaker who has gone from doing impressive things with few resources to making just plain great films quickly, but it doesn't seem like he and co-writer Nick Damici have broken through either. It's therefore kind of natural for Mickle & Damici to adapt a Lansdale novel, and not entirely surprising that the resulting movie is a terrific thriller that may get lost in the cracks because people don't know that they should absolutely seek it out.

It starts in nailbiting fashion, as Ann Dane (Vinessa Shaw) hears a noise in the middle of the night and wakes her husband Richard (Michael C. Hall), who nervously gets out his father's gun to investigate. In the aftermath, Sheriff Ray Price (Damici) assures Richard that he's unlikely to be charged, but also tells him that the boy's father, Ben Russell (Sam Shepard), is a nasty sort just out on parole himself.

Mickle is a great director in part because he has a penchant for moving quickly even while he's lingering on important and interesting details. That opening sequence, for example, is a nigh-perfect example of how to hook an audience with action while simultaneously taking the measure of a character. There's not a single part of the fallout from that beginning that isn't interesting and well-presented, which means that when the movie gets to a terrific siege, it feels climactic even though there is actually a fair chunk left to unfold. There are some bumps at that point, but it's not long before things are rolling in efficient fashion once more , right up to the harrowing finish.

Full review at EFC

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