Jim Mickle seems to have released Cold in July in the hopes that its spot-on evocation of the '80s—in both form and content—will excuse the fact that it is an unholy Frankenstein's monster of a movie. Nope. Each of the screenplay's three acts seems to come from a different film: here's Dexter as a mulleted schlub trying to protect his family from a vengeful ex-con; here's a mystery about shady police tactics that is never fully resolved and is quickly forgotten; and here's an action flick in which mulleted-schlub-Dexter suddenly becomes a shotgun-toting vigilante for no discernible reason. Once enough people have been shot, the story ends. I guess there's also some shopworn themes concerning the life-altering effects of violence, but Mickle's treatment of these themes is as thin as mulleted-schlub-Dexter's 1980s 'stache, so basically who cares.
It's all pretty wretched stuff, compounded by the third act's hard left turn into the depraved world of snuff-film peddlers. While it's not exploitative, it leaves a foul taste in the mouth, and the preceding confusion does nothing to encourage viewers to meet the film halfway. The filmmakers have said they were seeking to emulate the films of Bong Joon-ho and other Korean auteurs. Their fumbling in the attempt makes me appreciate films such as Memories of Murder and Mother all the more.