June 6, 2014 at 1:00 am

Review: Clumsy 'Cold in July' story undermines fine acting

Sam Shepard, left, Michael C. Hall, and Don Johnson star in 'Cold in July.' (IFC Films)

“Cold in July” is one of those films that wander wherever they want, whether or not things make sense, and then end in a fairly predictable manner.

The catch is three talented actors give this movie their all and their all turns out to be pretty entertaining. So even as you watch and realize the overall film is mediocre, there’s definite pleasure in watching these fellows — especially the old geezers — work.

Michael C. Hall plays Richard Dane, a husband and father in 1989 Texas who wakes one night to find an intruder in his house. Nervously loading his gun, he goes to investigate and ends up shooting a stranger in his living room.

The cops tell him the man was a wanted criminal. They also tell him the man’s father, Russel (Sam Shepard), has just been released from prison. Russel makes it clear he wants revenge and is after Dane’s son and tense times follow.

But then Dane sees a “Wanted” poster for Russel’s son and realizes it isn’t the man he shot. Enter a private detective from Houston named Jim Bob (Don Johnson) and suddenly the film is searching for Russel’s son.

Why Dane — a guy who owns a framing shop in a small town — would want to be involved in said search is anybody’s guess. Yes, there’s the question of who exactly he shot in his living room, but the search for Russel’s son has nothing to do with that.

It’s a major problem when your chief protagonist’s moves don’t make sense, but there’s undeniable pleasure in watching having-a-hoot Johnson bounce his garrulous ways off Shepard’s tight-lipped Russel. Hall does his best to make sense of Dane, but the plot turns simply don’t add up. Good work in a not-so-good movie.

‘Cold in July’

GRADE: C
Rated R for disturbing bloody violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
Running time: 109 minutes

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