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Cold in July is a 2014 crime thriller film directed by Jim Mickle (We Are What We Are, Stake Land), based on a novel by Joe R. Lansdale (Bubba Ho-Tep).

A mild-mannered father, Richard (Michael C. Hall), shoots a burglar in his home. Consumed with guilt, Richard goes to the burglar's funeral; unfortunately, the man's father (Sam Shepard) also shows up, looking for revenge. But this is only the beginning of a long, twisted tale.


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The film has the following tropes:

  • Anti-Hero: Ben Russell once he makes his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Asshole Victim: Freddy Russell.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Jim Bob dresses rather colorfully, drives a car with bull horns on the front (it’s Texas) and has a rather boastful personality. But he’s a Korean War veteran, a skilled gunfighter and a crack private detective who helps uncover the full extent of Freddy Russell’s crimes.
  • Eye Scream: The fat criminal with the metal tray, and Ben's son
  • Character Tics: Ben flicks his lighter open and shut. Richard finds this very unsettling.
  • Crime Fiction: Murder, conspiracy, criminals, cops, vigilantism, etc.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jim Bob, the private detective is a master of this.
  • Dirty Cop: Sheriff Price helps pass off a burglar as Freddy, who is hiding in Witness Protection from the Dixie Mafia. While this is morally questionable, his attempting to murder Ben to maintain the lie tips him into corruption.
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  • Even Evil Has Standards: Freddy may be a torturer and murderer, but he takes issue with one of his subordinates using an offensive term towards British people.
  • Eye Scream: The burglar is shot right in the eye. Ben threatens Richard by tearing the eye out of Richard's son's teddy bear.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: In an odd way, Ben and Richard after Richard saves him from being hit by a train and proves he didn't kill his son.
  • From Camouflage to Criminal: Ben Russell is a Koran War veteran who ended up serving a pretty lengthy prison sentence. However, the film never tells us exactly what he went to jail for. He makes use of his combat experience during the film’s climax.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The camera cuts away from the lethal moment in the Batting Practice snuff film.
  • Irony: Russell, who's looking to avenge his son's death, ends up killing him when he finds him in the end.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Richard's murder of a burglar in his house reveals a Dixie mafia informant being protected by the police and making snuff films.
  • Not Quite Dead: Ben's son Freddy turns out to be alive and under the Witness Protection program.
  • Offing the Offspring: After learning of his son’s heinous crimes, Ben swears that he will personally kill him. He succeeds. A rare occasion when this trope is portrayed in a somewhat positive light.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Ben insists that he be the one to kill his son.
  • Period Piece: The movie is set in Texas in 1989. Period dress and technology abound. Jim has a lunch box-size cellular phone that he brags about.
  • Pet the Dog: Ben gives a random boy a horse he made with drinking straws, showing that he might have some decency after all.
  • Riddle for the Ages: the true identity of the intruder Richard shot and killed is never discovered by any of the protagonists.
  • Snuff Film: Freddy, who's under the Witness Protection program, films himself killing illegal immigrant prostitutes and sell the tapes with such labels as Batting Practice.
  • Supporting Protagonist: The second half of the film has Richard mostly helping Ben find out and ultimately kill his scumbag son.
  • Thriller: A crime thriller, to be exact.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The whole arc of Richard revolves around this.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We never do find out the identity of the burglar that Richard shot dead at the beginning of the film.

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