Cold in July [REVIEW]

Shepherd, Hall, Johnson

Two television stars, one big and one who used to be big, pair up in the new film Cold in July. It's a film that would actually play better on the small screen then the big screen.

Dexter's Michael C. Hall plays Richard Dane, who works as a farmer to support his pretty wife and young son in a cozy clapboard house somewhere in America. One night while they are asleep, a burglar breaks into their home and Dane, in a moment of panic, shoots and kills him. Both Richard and his wife Anne (Vinessa Shaw) are stunned and frightened by this, especially as their young son was sleeping in the next room. Richard is cleared of any murder charges by the local police, who say the killing was justified.

But one person in town feels like the killing was unjustified, and that is a man who thinks it was his long lost son who was killed. Enter Ben Russell (Sam Shepard). He's the town loner, living on the outskirts in a run-down shack. He wants to get even with the Dane family, and starts stalking them and shooting at their house. But Dane is skeptical about the burglar he killed; he insists it was not Russell's son.

Next, and inexplicably, the local police try to kill Russell, and Dane is nearby and saves him.

Now enter private detective (and ex-big television star) Jim Bob Luke (played by Don Johnson, formerly of Miami Vice). He's been sent to investigate the murder and shows up in town as you might expect: a cowboy hat, boots and a Southern accent. Who has hired him is not explained.

To make a long story (110 minutes) short, Jim Bob and Dane, who are now best friends with Russell, search for more information, not about the man who Dane killed, but about Russell's son and his whereabouts. How or why the plot takes this turn is not explained either. They discover Russell's son is involved in the making of snuff films (where woman are killed while in the act of a sexual act). This leads, predictably, to showdown between father and son. This plot device is supposed to be somehow related to Dane and the relationship he has with his son, as Dane is front row and center when this showdown takes place. And before this showdown, he and the other two men are able to fight off and shoot lots of other men. Not believable in the very least.

The acting in Cold in July is fine. Hall neatly steps out of his television persona to be credible in this role. Shepard doesn't have much to do, as his character doesn't have much of a personality. It's up to Don Johnson to bring excitement to an otherwise confusing film. He embraces his role as the detective, providing a spark and more. He's an actor who plays well on both the big and small screens.

For what it's worth, Cold in July is better viewed on the small screen, which is where I recommend you should watch it.