Cold in July

Firstly what a pleasure it was to see Michael C. Hall as a lead in a major feature film. Being a massive fan of Dexter, well the first four seasons at least, it took me a while to shake those blood splatter predilections but once the film gets down to the nitty gritty Hall comes into his own as Richard Dane, a protective and loving father. Where I have become accustomed to seeing Dexter treat dangerous situations with tactical aplomb it was refreshing to see him struggling, acting human might be a better way of putting it, with the aftermath of his run in with a burglar who ends up with his brain all over the flowery sofa (no spoliers there if you watch the trailer). With the DVD and Blu-ray release coming within the next week now seems as good a time as any to share my views.

Although deemed heroic by the local community Dane insists to those who ask that it was an accident, just a clumsy slip of the finger. When he discovers a photo of the victim he just killed on the wanted wall in his local police precinct he immediately questions Ray Price (Nick Damici) the policeman in charge. Persistently reassuring himself and trying to convince others that the man he shot was most definitely not Freddy Russel as the police consistently claim he treads perilously close to the line separating paranoia from certainty as events unfold. On his path to reveal the truth in a pulpy southern setting he encounters Freddy’s estranged father Ben Russel at Freddy’s most unspectacular funeral. Despite his absence from Freddy’s life Russel allows an unrelenting paternalism to determine his path for revenge. Acting like any honestly forgiving and guilt ridden human being Dane implores to Russel that he had no choice, that it was self-defence, his life or mine kind of situation. Following an indirect threat from Russel to the safety of Dane’s child, Jordan Dane, he justifiably involves the police who agree to set up patrols around the Dane residence.

With the weather suitably manipulated to create the perfect setting for some environmental symbolism we enter the next scene in a downpour of rain with crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning. With the mood set the suspense begins to build as, much like our protagonist, wariness takes hold, we fear for Jordan just as much as Dane. Although one of the oldest tricks in the book it is perfectly constructed and fulfils its purpose well. When Dane receives a call later that night that Russel has been captured trying to flee to Mexico he doubts the competency of the police and the trust he has put in them. Dane is faced with a moral dilemma of the highest order. With the power to determine the life of Russel now in his hands he takes his chance to redeem himself and discover the truth behind the police plot. When it comes to light that his family was used as bait he joins forces with Russel to discover why.

With an overarching theme of fatherhood throughout an unlikely alliance forms. As Dane and Russel get caught up in a wider plot a series of twists and turns leads them on a search that demands individual battles with their inner psyche challenging their moral virtues and responsibilities. Interestingly Dane’s battle to protect his son in some ways mirrors Russel’s determination to seek revenge for his loss. For a starkly cold thriller it plays into the notions of morality and empathy excellently and offers more than just your run of the mill thriller. For what it does, it does well but for everything else (no there’s not mastercard) there is unfortunately room for improvement. The relationship between Dane and Jordan is deliberately muted for metaphorical purposes but could have benefitted from development and at times Ann Dane (Vinessa Shaw) is particular grating in a naggy pedantic kind of way. This results in drawing Richard away from his family when at the heart of his ordeal is protection, more so than self-doubt and worry as the plot would have you believe. Distracting our attention away from this key factor we get caught ball watching for lack of a better football cliché and find ourselves mixed up in vigilantism and the highly saught after grail of fatherly redemption.

A perfectly enjoyable movie that was well Worth my Time and given the opportunity I’d probably watch again sometime in the future. For Michael C. Hall’s first leading role he was perfectly cast and it allowed him to break free from the chains of serial killer fame in this dramatic pulp thriller.

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