Cold in July – 2.75 stars

After a promising start, this picture spins so wildly out of control it is almost impressive. Mild mannered Texas picture framer Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) shoots a home intruder, earning the enmity of the intruder’s fresh out of prison father (Sam Shepard), but they soon learn there is something bigger than the both of them connected to the killing. The first half of director Jim Mickle’s movie is tense and effective. But then, the picture abruptly shifts course, veering into the implausible. Hall and Shepard improbably team up together with the assistance of Don Johnson as a Houston private investigator (Johnson delivers a jokey performance that undercuts the film’s dark feel) and we get a bit of a buddy movie. The awkward shift in tone is accompanied by nonsensical plot points and an ostentatiously arty, bloody end that utilizes slow motion and a synthesizer rich soundtrack reminiscent of The Terminator without a hint of irony.

Post Dexter, Hall is as good as he can be, but the writers give him absolutely no real reason to become a confederate with a man who not only threatened his life, but that of his wife and child. The critics gave this 85% on rottentomatoes.com while the audience posted a 69%. The audience got it right.

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