SilentDawn’s review published on Letterboxd:
So many films are released in the course of the year. Some are big blockbusters, some are small indies, some are Oscar-bait; however, all of them are out for viewers. Every film wants to be seen, but so few are given the popularity and acclaim that they deserve.
Cold In July isn't just recommended by me, It's demanded by me. I blind-bought the Blu-ray, hoping for a neo-noir to give me some chills. What I got was a film so hauntingly vibrant and disgustingly pulpy that I couldn't believe what I just saw. Simply put, Cold In July is one of my favorite films of the year so far, a piece of work so wonderfully dirty and beautifully tragic that I found myself flabbergasted at the execution and subtlety on display.
It's always hard to find the words when you discover a film you truly love, especially one that mesmerizes, perplexes, frightens, stuns, and shocks in equal measure. Cold In July is like one giant tonal shift, yet it's uplifted because of that attribute. The film is utterly unpredictable, both in respect to the actual story and the development of the story's characters. It's also hard to describe the film, mainly because any hint will spoil the many surprises in store. Just a word of warning, DON'T WATCH THE TRAILER FOR THIS.
I'm skipping the synopsis, as I'm not going to risk the chance of spoiling anything. Instead, I'm going to focus more on the technical elements as well as the spellbinding performances throughout the film.
The direction by Jim Mickle is so revolting yet enticing that it holds the foundation for this gripping and hypnotic ride. Distinctly post-modern and nostalgic of the seedy trashy midnight-films of the 1980s, the entire film is as if Drive went even further down the rabbit-hole of depravity and societal decay. It's unpleasant and commanding in its sense of place and character, fully evolving themes slowly but surely throughout its run-time. Truly, the entire film feels as if its on a ticking time-bomb that will eventually explode into a potent fireworks show of gaining masculinity and resurrecting security.
The cinematography by Ryan Samul perfectly echos the tight direction, and it culminates with a film that rides slowly against a sense of darkness, only to disappear more and more as the film goes on. The pulsating sights of neon and colorful skylights signal a lost world, and as our characters transverse this world, It's like they're being trapped in a environment of rich red lights and stimulating flashes of vivid violence.
The performances by Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson are formidably quiet and passionately hushed, and it's essential for viewers to closely examine both the facial expressions of our characters as well as the tranquil glances within conversations. All of the roles are just as restful as the film, but that's what gives the film its dominant aura.
And finally, the soundtrack by Jeff Grace is the loose and playful pulse for this decomposing body of a film. It's so awesome and beautiful that words can't describe it.
Overall, I just ADORE this movie. Fiery, striking, captivating, and vigorous; check this little gem out as soon as possible.
Edit: I brought back my rating just a tad, mainly because it can't compete with some of the more radical and original films of the year. However, don't let that put you off from seeing one of the pulpiest and dirtiest films of the past few years. It's gnarly.