The most effective pre-publicity IFC could have employed prior to releasing Cold In July would have been to stream the first five minutes of the film via internet. I mention this because the first five minutes of Cold In July are absolutely riveting, a master class in tension, exceptionally conceived, shot and executed. Unfortunately, those first five minutes serve as a lead-in to the movie, which unravels like a ball of yarn.
The problem with Cold In July isn’t the acting, and isn’t the directing. The problem with Cold In July is a screenplay so damn earnest it puts most Grisham novels to shame. The character choices are unlikely, the camaraderie is absurd, and the climax introduces more questions than it provides in terms of answers. Somewhere in between Michael C. Hall goes full-on drawl beneath a mullet and Sam Shepard makes his presence felt in spades. Don Johnson’s character comes on far too big for any actor’s britches and Vinessa Shaw seems out of place as the down-home Texas bride. What the entire thing adds up to is one unfortunate mess of a movie. But the first five minutes will hold you fast onto your seat. You can bet the goddamn house on that.
(Cold In July opens in limited release this Friday.)