‘Cold in July’ movie review: retro entertainment

This film is an immersive, old-fashioned experience.

Directed by Jim Mickle | Starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson | Not Rated | Starts Friday at IFC Center and on VOD

“Cold In July” stars Sam Shepard and Don Johnson along with Michael C. Hall, so it would probably be pretty engaging if it were just about those actors hanging out for a couple hours.

The fact that director Jim Mickle supplements his casting coup with a polished noir aesthetic, complete with heavy shadows, small-town impressionism and an overarching sense of moral ambiguity, only further enhances the grizzled, retro entertainment.

The picture, adapted from the novel by Joe R. Lansdale and set in East Texas circa the late ’80s, looks at the complex ramifications after Hall’s picture frame salesman/family man Richard Dane accidentally shoots and kills a home invader.

This is a strange movie in some respects, as the story incorporates a 180 degree shift to the point where the ostensible protagonist is almost immaterial to the events.

Mickle, an accomplished craftsman of genre pieces (see, for example, his “We Are What We Are” remake), transcends the plot holes, the stretches in narrative credibility, by stressing the chemistry between his trio of leads and emphasizing the picture’s rather dour ideas about fatherhood and responsibility through scenes set among the hidden contours of the darkened night.

It’s an immersive, old-fashioned experience — Walter Hill or Sam Peckinpah would approve.

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