Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 5: “Pie a la Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 5: “Pie a la Mojo”
Directed by Tim Southam
Written by Joe R. Lansdale

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Bad Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “No Mo’ Mojo” – click here
Pic 1Hap and Leonard (James Purefoy/Michael K. Williams) have found the carnival at the end of the Idaho-like bus route. They see the ghost of Chester, we see them as boys. And the old man tells them, once and for all: “Finish this.”
Florida Grange (Tiffany Mack) is dealing with Detective Hanson (Cranston Johnson) and it isn’t all roses, either. At the same time, Hap and Leonard are staking out at Meemaw’s (Irma P. Hall) place where she looks after young Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon), who’s not entirely loving being shut in. Lord knows I love me some Meemaw! Ms. Hall is a treasure, and you can see her having fun playing the role. In other news, TJ (Kelvin Brown) helps our boys sneak out of the house under Sneed’s (Evan Gamble) nose.
TJ: “Nobody expects the retard
And now, Hap and Leonard get themselves labourer jobs with the carnival to go undercover, to try rooting out the killer of those boys. Is it all so simple? Well they run into an old friend, the flexible and fun Judy Punch (Bonnie Morgan); she’s too “old for the pole” nowadays, so, carnival it is!
Pic 1AOur titular heroes are on the constant lookout for any clues as to who killed the boys. Everything is suspicious, from behaviour to tattoos to look; anything could mean danger. Leonard drops a nice Ray Bradbury reference calling a tattooed carny serving food The Illustrated Man. They ask Judy if there are any noticeable candidates, and she suggests a few possibles giving them something to chew on. She also gets her hands on employee files for Hap, as well as hopes he’ll put a couple hands on her, too. Instead, he clings to responsibility. To do right by the missing, murdered boys that have piled up over the years. Somehow, despite her wonderful abilities, he refuses. Now that’s some strength, especially for ole Hap.
Judy: “I may not be as limber as I used to be, but I can still do more with six inches than a monkey can with a hundred feet of grapevine.”
Then there’s Leonard, searching the trailer of the tattooed guy. Turns out he’s a big bear of a man in the bedroom, ready to play. And those tattoos, they’re for sobriety. Poor Leonard barely makes it out alive, away from the sexual tyrannosaurus.
Back at Meemaw’s, Ivan is bored out of his mind. Can’t stand reading. Though she tries to show him the joy of it, that it helps you live a life inside the pages without having to always go out, letting you get into the trouble with Huck Finn without having to get into the trouble yourself. But the kid isn’t down for that.
Pic 2Hanson and his partner follow Florida to a garage, where she finds her own way inside. Where Hap and Leonard have been putting up their investigation links, the pictures of the boys, everything they’ve discovered so far. Leading the detectives right to it all. And y’know what they think immediately. Moreover, Sneed tracks them to the carnival, so an APB is out, as Ivan happens to stroll in. Another boy in danger.
In Judy’s trailer Hap and Leonard look over the employees, but the latter’s not sure they can take on an investigation of this size, just the two of them. Police are likely better equipped, yes; do they care as much? Doubt that. Regardless, the cops are already there, searching them out. As is Florida, trying to find them first. She finds Hap, and Leonard tries to get the Reverend Fitzgerald (Dohn Norwood) to get his group of kids out of there in case something bad goes down. After all, it’s the “third Saturday of every October” and tonight is that night.
This whole sequence is edited to perfection, taking us from Hap to Florida, to them together, to Leonard. Hap and Leonard writer Joe R. Lansdale’s (who wrote this episode) daughter is in this episode, too; we see her now and then. But this sequence is so well done, executed with expert directing and writing in combination.
Best part – Leonard saves Hap from arrest on the back of a horse! So Texas, so awesome.
Pic 3When they get out to the crypt, they find TJ there. With Ivan in the car. The big man says he’s “making angels” and that he put Ivan to sleep. Shit. A shotgun cocks in the background, then out comes the Reverend Fitzgerald. He and TJ were doing God’s work, supposedly. WHOA! I actually wondered if this was the case, the reverend that is – I didn’t see TJ coming – but dismissed it, and this surprised the hell out of me.
Rather than go down like that, Hap and Leonard get the jump on Fitzgerald. Then TJ joins in the fight. The boys break out into a brawl, as Leonard kicks the shit out of the (un)holy man with some of that military training. Before much else happens the cops arrive, to find the rev with a shotgun trained on the boys. Nothing more can be said before Fitzgerald turns the gun on himself and blows his face off. Poor TJ wanders out into things, as well. And Hanson’s partner fires on in him preemptively. Brutal stuff. At least Ivan’s not dead!
Now the corpses of those 13 boys in the crypt are uncovered, what Hap and Leonard had been finding out on their own is given credence instead of them getting blamed. Heroes who won’t get any credit, most likely.


Only thing is, someone has to tell Meemaw the truth. Hanson comes to do it, but Leonard offers. So it’ll be easier from someone she knows personally. Oh, just thinking of it breaks my heart. She takes it on herself, believing it her fault. She did all she could do for the boy, the rev turned him bad, manipulated him. “I thought if I just loved him hard enough…” she tries explaining to Leonard. Meemaw believes the devil followed her after that church was burned by the KKK all those years ago. Bless his heart, Leonard tries convincing her that’s not the case. And she does make a good point about the transformative power of love – Chester changed Leonard, Florida changed Hap.
Then we’re given another blow. Meemaw, as if done with life, gives up and dies right there in front of the pair. Like all of life’s unfairness toppling around us, in the background while they lament Judge Beaut Otis celebrates re-election. Nasty stuff.
Pic 5God damn you, Joe Lansdale! For making me cry tonight. Bastard (I actually love you, man). What an episode. Didn’t think the series could get any better, and then it tops my expectations. “No Mo’ Mojo” is next, the Season 2 finale. SundanceTV better give us another season or I’ll riot.

Advertisements

Hap and Leonard – Season 2, Episode 4: “Bad Mojo”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 2, Episode 4: “Bad Mojo”
Directed by Abe Sylvia
Written by Abe Sylvia & Ione Lloyd

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Holy Mojo” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Pie a la Mojo” – click here
Pic 1A young Hap and Leonard are at the fair. Even back then Hap was in love with Florida, though worried he wasn’t good enough. And the pair loved one another, Hap and Leonard, even then. Unafraid to show their affection for each other. In the garage, present day, Hap (James Purefoy) wakes to find Sneed (Evan Gamble) and a few other cops there to arrest him. Now he’s in a cell across from Leonard (Michael K. Williams), in for the arson he committed. Hap’s in for kidnapping Judge Beau Otis, whom he recently discovered is epileptic; wonder if that’ll come into play again down the road, or if it had anything to do with his killing of their fathers. Hmm.
Pic 1ASheriff Valentine (Brian Dennehy) has a talk with Hap about whether he’s a “troublemaker.” He does not want any trouble with his brother; he is poised to be the new county judge. So it’s either leave things alone with Beau and go home, both he and Leonard, or else it’ll look grim. And no more digging around where neither of them belong. Some rough talk. In an interrogation, Leonard’s dealing with Dt. Hanson (Cranston Johnson) and his racist partner, neither of them being too friendly. As always, Mr. Pine won’t do the dance, not for a black cop or a white cop or anyone else that wants him to tell lies about himself.
Leonard: “And we aint no brothers. Slack or no slack.”
At least he’s out of jail, and Hap, too. Neither of them immediately see a way forward. It’s all over, so Hap heads out to work and Leonard goes to check on Ivan (Olaniyan Thurmon). They did their best. That’s all they can do, right?
Florida (Tiffany Mack) has an awkward meeting with Hap at the diner after she didn’t show up for his and Leonard’s arrest. It wasn’t hooking up that made her stay away, it’s the fact they’re constantly in trouble and poking around in some dangerous business. What I love about this episode so far is that Hap seems to be having some strange daydreams, from hooking up with Florida to the Village People. Over with Meemaw (Irma P. Hall), Leonard and Ivan get closer. Then Leonard notices the picture of the church on her mantle, where the gate stood. A troubling thought. It was long ago, when Meemaw was a girl. She tried putting out the far the Klansmen set, burning her arms. Such a sad thing to see when she tells Leonard of what happened that day.


Dt. Hanson is looking at the child’s body in the morgue. His partner Charlie is worried that he’ll be caught “tampering” but it’s only the fact he knows there’s more afoot. Hanson pushes on, he’s starting to feel there is more than meets the eye. Suddenly, Sheriff Valentine arrives, as the detectives hide. The old man is there to visit the body. He has the shoes. Holy fuck. And with the detectives watching on unseen he puts the little red shoes right in the body bag, signing off forms for the medical examiner. Washing his hands of the situation, the body off for cremation. Or so he thinks. There is no way Hanson will let this sit on his conscience, at least not forever.
I love how, using the same line of dialogue, Hap and Leonard both figure out the gate is from a church. It’s just excellent writing, and they each deliver the line is such different yet similar ways that the respective scenes are perfect. Hap does a bit more investigating, trying to figure out if the church he’s located is the one where the gate stood years ago. During a charity boxing event at the church, he gets in on a boxing match and things get heated in front of Florida and the audience as Hap and the pastor throw fists. Ultimately the white boy goes down, not without a decent fight.
Meanwhile, Leonard’s tracking down information on the church. And he’s haunted by the ghost of his uncle Chester, as well as Illium Moon.


Leonard: “Goddamn peckerheads all think alike
Hap: “I thought it was great minds
Leonard: “In your case, peckerheads.”
The pair are getting closer and closer, finding their way to where Old Hope church used to stand. All that’s left are the bricks of the foundation, nothing much standing. Then they fall right through an old, broken floor. Through the basement they find coffins labelled with years. Inside, more children. Disturbing, to say the least. Now the boys have got themselves a handful; way more than that, two arm loads. They set themselves up an investigation, connecting dates, names of the missing boys. An elaborate puzzle they’ve got to put together, because it looks as if whoever’s been taking those boys and killing them isn’t done with whatever they’d planned.
Hanson and his partner are distraught over what they’ve seen. Although it’s the former who’s more interested in actually digging out the truth. Not just that they’re in the dark, struggling for clues. Hap and Leonard are further ahead in their investigation than the actual police force. A great testament to the lack of care put into missing black children; we think it’s bad today, it was even worse in the ’80s.


Hap and Leonard are trailed by the police on the latest leg of their adventure. They pop in to see Stella at the salon. She’s sly, as are the other ladies sitting around getting their hair done. Great moment as Stella tells the cops to find her missing son while they’re so concerned with tracking down the pair. Then the other mothers show up. Hap and Leonard are the only ones looking for the missing boys.
Love the sequence set to Johnny Cash’s “Wayfaring Stranger” as the pair ride a bus, all the young black boys and girls around them. What would otherwise be a beautiful sequence of all the smiling faces, the youthful innocence, is a tragic sight; seeing Hap especially look at them is like a gut punch, knowing any one of them could go missing and barely anyone would flinch as is the case with BB and the others. Haunting sequence, one of the best in the series as a whole.
Pic 4DArriving at a carnival, now knowing part of their map of the missing boys links to the busses and Idaho, Hap and Leonard have more to go on. BB’s little body has been cremated, but the shoes aren’t gone yet.
The next episode is “Pie a la Mojo” and it looks intense! Pumped to see what goes on next in this stellar adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s characters and novels.

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 6: “Eskimos”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 6: “Eskimos”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Written by Jim Mickle

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “War” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 premiere, “Mucho Mojo” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.04.08 AM
The finale has arrived, and after Trudy (Christina Hendricks) abandoned Hap and Leonard (James Purefoy/Michael K. Williams), they were left with the vengeful Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) who still mourns his dead lover, Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh).
In the aftermath, Leonard’s place is covered in police tape, and Hap laments to the dog: “I miss him, too.”
Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.04.47 AM
We flash back to their precarious situation at the end of the previous episode. Outside, Jimmi is killing the dogs, taunting Hap and Leonard inside. The episode flashes to after it all again, as Hap starts to take down all the boards over the windows, trying to put everything back in its place. He’s sporting injuries from the shootout. Obviously, Hap is now safe from Soldier. But what exactly’s happened in the meantime?
At a literal and figurative crossroads, Trudy sits in the van. Over at the house Soldier keeps on taunting, especially about Trudy, mocking Hap for having trusted her too many times. The title of the episode, “Eskimos”, comes from a conversation about how Eskimos supposedly share women, so on. A nice anecdote. Then, from nowhere, Angel reappears. Not dead at all. In fact, she proceeds to kick the absolute shit out of Hap and Leonard. At least until the latter snaps her neck. Well now, Soldier’s really upset.


Hap: “Guns, huh? Who needs guns?” (Soldier shoots him in the arm)
Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.13.26 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.14.27 AM
Amazingly enough, Trudy does come back. She drives right through the side of Leonard’s house, crashing into Soldier, saving the two pals. At least for the moment.
In an impressive scene, Hap holds a gun on Soldier but refuses to pull the trigger. He is thoroughly a non-violent man, only when pushed to the brink. And still, Trudy pulls the trigger herself. So there’s a juxtaposition between the two lovers, as Hap is tough but doesn’t always take the hard road out, whereas Trudy usually takes the hard road everywhere.
In the bloody moments following the showdown, Trudy reveals to Hap she drowned the bird in the sink. It reminded her of their relationship, her failures. She says “I love you“, only both Hap and Leonard are passed out in the backseat. Ah, their love is always complicated by something new. Meanwhile, Trudy passes out behind the wheel and they casually roll into a ditch coming to a full stop.


In hospital, Hap wakes to a vision of Trudy, who bids goodbye. She walks down the hall with the old Hap, the long haired hippy Hap, the one with too much optimism, before having to go to jail and figure out the harshest bits of lie. A sign that the old Hap is definitely dead. And Trudy, too.
Cut back to that rainy night when little Hap and his father stopped in the rain to help the black man and his boy. Here, we see the unifying moment between young Hap and young Leonard. That night their fathers were both killed, after a car crashed into them on the wet road.
Back to their present day, Leonard wakes up to Hap sitting by him at the hospital. They’d been out several days. The two of them ruminate on their relationship, Leonard talks of the war. However, things feel fractured, and it’s possible this has forever altered their relationship. Also, Hap ends up being questioned by FBI and local law enforcement. They want to know about the job Howard and Trudy enlisted him for, as well as Leonard, and all about the car in the river, so forth. Turns out Angel and Soldier were on the radar awhile. But as for Hap Collins, he’s in the clear currently.


Hap sets out to find the hidden goods himself. Mostly, he finds old sentimentality, and a little bit of dog shit. Leading him to a ton of money jammed into the dog food. Stacks of bills inside; lots chewed, some no worse for the wear.
What I love about this series is the emotional aspect. Joe R. Lansdale writes great crime fiction, but writes even better characters within that framework. He gets into Southern Gothic at times, even a bit of a take on the hardboiled detective genre. Above all else, he is a crafty writer whose characters, particularly those of Hap and Leonard, leap off the page. Here, they are adapted incredibly well, and especially Hap is a touching, complex character. Purefoy gives a wonderful performance, nuanced, and brings out the best in Hap. So watching him cobble together all the cash, for Leonard, for the Children’s Trust Fund, it is a real class act type sequence. Because we really recognize the goodness in Hap here, despite him getting wrapped up in ridiculous schemes such as the one Howard and Trudy had going.
More than that, we see another scene of young Hap, who witnesses the police covering up the drunk driving deaths, blaming it on young Leonard’s father being a “coon” and all. So not only is there a bond between the two boys, there’s further evidence as to why Hap became the man he is now. A beautiful and sad scene all at once.


Three months down the road. Hap’s back to working in the rose field, drinking Silver Spurs by the handful at night, smoking his pipe. Then up turns Leonard, healthy, if not a little banged up. He’s got to attend the funeral of his uncle. Regardless of the rift between them, Leonard cares for the man, seemingly always did. And good ole Hap accompanies his friend to the burial. Whatever had come between them before, the wildness of the things in which they got involved, it’s now lightening, but that’s always been clear – these two are friends for life, and even if something gets in their way briefly it would have to be a life altering event for them to completely split apart.
Hap remarks how life is not like Leave It to Beaver, there isn’t always closure and things don’t always cauterize at the end of an episode, to provide relief, so it all can start fresh next time. Ironically, this is the case. For the moment, anyways. Because after Hap turns out the light stating “No more drama for a while,” below Uncle Chester’s house, buried under the floorboards, is the skeleton of a small child. What sort of misadventure will this bring in Season 2? This opens the setup for Lansdale’s novel Mucho Mojo from the Hap and Leonard series, a dark bit of subject matter, too.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.47.43 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.50.10 AM
Let’s root hard that SundanceTV does the right thing and gives this a renewal. Lansdale deserves it, as do Hap and Leonard because there’s so much more to explore with them – their relationship, their world and its landscape – and many stories to be told! A great, fun, and at times wild season.

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 5: “War”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 5: “War”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici

* For a review of the previous episode, “Trudy” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Eskimos” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.27.49 PM
The penultimate Season 1 episode of SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard starts out after the betrayal in the previous chapter, on the part of Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) with the greasy Paco (Neil Sandilands).
But we step back in time, to when Hap Collins (James Purefoy) was a little boy, and the racism in Marvel Creek is alive and thriving. A minstrel show is put off, as people crack up laughing and enjoy it, far too much. We see little Hap and his father driving, when they notice a black man on the road with car troubles. Then the worst looks like it’s about to happen.
Cut back to the 1980s again. Angel and Soldier, with Paco alongside, have Hap, Leonard (Michael K. Williams), Trudy (Christina Hendricks) in tow. So what kind of madness will we see this time around? Surely Hap and Leonard aren’t going down without a fight.


Naturally, Trudy is disgusted by Paco, having been an intricate part of their team before. He’s a man of his own, though. Meanwhile, Leonard tells Hap: “If you see a chance, dont you hesitate.” For the time being, they go along to get along. They start digging up the money from their little treasure hunt. And poor Leonard’s the one designated to do the shoveling. Typical.
Except, down in the dirt there’s no money. Just an empty box. Turns out Trudy moved the cash somewhere else. Soldier takes her aside for a little heart to heart, though, she’s one tough cookie.
Love the dialogue. Not only does it keep in the spirit of Joe Lansdale, it’s just solid television writing, and keeps the scenes moving along at a nice, spirited pace. There’s wit, there’s profundity at times, others it can even be silly as hell. Dig it all around.
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.35.24 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.41.18 PM
Soldier: “The biggest balls in this room are swinginfrom a cooch, I gotta love that.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.41.28 PM
With only Trudy holding the whereabouts, things might get to looking ugly. Well, not until Soldier’s had himself a nice meal of french toast a la Angel. A set of handcuffs Leonard uses in bed end up chaining him and Hap down; nice little touch there, especially his mouthy response to Paco.
But the situation is starting to get scary. Soldier is a psychotic, as is his partner/lover in crime. The headstrong Trudy will not reveal where the money’s hidden, despite Hap trying to convince her otherwise. “Who are you, Joan of Arc?” sighs Soldier. This may lead her somewhere dark and disturbing. My favourite scene so far comes when Soldier throws on some VCMG, “Spock” to be exact, and starts dancing. Right before Angel reappears with a toolbox. Lots of interesting things to use. Nothing really works on Trudy, though. Even a semi-crucifixion. Until Howard suggests they put some pain on Hap, that’ll get her mouth jawing.


Soldier: “I figured you more of a Soul Man
Leonard: “Country got soul


Finally, Hap reveals he’s pretty sure where Trudy put the cash – he’d seen something on her shoes which gave her away. What’s most interesting in this scene is the bond, again, between Hap and Leonard. It’s stronger than the one between Hap and Trudy, even as lovers. Because Leonard stopped Howard from bashing Hap’s face in. Then when Leonard faced a bullet, Hap stopped it all. He could’ve really stopped things when Trudy got that nail in the hand. Yet he didn’t. He saved that card for Leonard.
Ole Howard bites the dust. I knew somebody had to. But the chaos goes on. Hap’s busy leading Soldier to the right spot. Can they slip themselves out of this mess?
At the dog pens, Hap goes in to try digging out the money. Then they throw a plan into action, as does Trudy, stabbing Paco through the eye after hauling her hand off the table and using the nail in self-defense. Everything goes wild. Hap and Leonard run off, though, the latter takes a bullet. Trudy manages to do Paco in. But Angel and Soldier are still lurking about, just as ready as ever to do more damage.


Hap and Leonard go back for Trudy, holing up in the house. Outside, Soldier removes an arrow from Angel’s neck, one Hap gave her. And so Soldier watches as she fades away, whispering sweet nothings to her; a tender relationship for two maniacs, all the same. Will this only serve to make Soldier more crazy?
Right now, Leonard’s bleeding out quick, and Hap decides running is their best option. Well, Hap plans on carrying Leonard, but still – high tailing it is their only shot.
The plan gets interrupted by Soldier. And then Trudy leaves, fast as she can. Alone. Another double cross in the books for this Southern femme fatale. How are Hap and Leonard about to squeeze out of this one?


The final Season 1 episode, “Eskimos”, comes out next week. Stay with me, folks. Loving this Lansdale adaptation to the fullest!

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 4: “Trudy”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 4: “Trudy”
Directed by Nick Gomez
Teleplay by Nick Damici & Jim Mickle

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Dive” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “War” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.13.05 PM
After the end of last episode, Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) find themselves taken hostage by Howard (Bill Sage) and his gang. Of course, Trudy Fawst (Christina Hendricks) and lets it all happen.
We watch Trudy take it all in. Heavy. She thinks about years ago, life before. The bird in a cage comes from Trudy here, as she tries to let one out into the wild: “Its time to be a bird.” Instead this turns into us seeing a bit of a sadistic side to her come out. When the bird won’t fly away, Trudy opts to drown it instead. Yikes. The look in her eyes says so much.
Out in the living room, Hap and Leonard on their knees get an explanation about Howard needing to “appropriate” their share of the money because there wasn’t enough left after the moldy portion. A potent word from Trudy – “sacrifice” – referring to Leonard and Hap giving up their share for Howard, Trudy and the crew. When Hap knows all about sacrifice.
The greasy crew, including Chub (Jeff Pope) and Paco (Neil Sandilands), hold Hap and Leonard at gunpoint. Hap digs a hole for them to bury the money, considering the police presence nearby. Best is when Leonard stands tall against the barrage of weaponry pointed towards him, and refuses to fill the hole in with the money; shows how he does not let anyone walk over him.


Later, Hap and Leonard end up getting Chub to talk. He gives up the plan for them to buy cocaine. That’s their plan for “sustainable income” in order to do a “Robin Hood” scheme; “to beat the system,” preaches Howard. Lots of great dialogue here in this sequence, as Hap and Leonard both give the gang a talking to, as well as take the piss at the same time. They up duct taped on the porch, bitching at each other in their unique way. Again, as I’ve said plenty already, Purefoy and Williams do such a perfect job with the characters, they really give Joe R. Lansdale’s writing justice in the sense that they make these two friends seem so believable, so natural together. You wouldn’t know but they’d actually been friends for most of their lives. Further gives authenticity to the writing, as their relationship makes everything else flow so organically.
Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.20.54 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.22.57 PM
Leonard: “Nice girlfriend you got there. Got more faces than a diamond.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.24.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-18 at 2.31.06 PM
We get a deep look in Trudy during this episode; as if you didn’t know already with the title. But there are a frequent glimpses behind the mask, both frightening and also human. In the series’ current timeline, Trudy wrestles with her actions, and flashes back to the last time she really worked Hap over. I mean, she isn’t a monster. She’s a human, she is a lover. But there’s a certain amount of con artist in her, too. And ruthlessness. Yet she does question Howard: “Is this who we are?”
Chub also reveals his softer nature. While Paco’s a stone cold bad ass, Chub regrets how things went down. Further fueling the fire, Leonard tells him they don’t respect him, and says he’s just a “walking talking porkchop” in their eyes, which makes me laugh but makes me pity Chub at the same time. He refuses to acknowledge the group doesn’t particularly cherish him.
I dig the flashbacks in the series to this point. They’re never overly long, though, this episode dives a bit deeper than any yet. Still, they’re filmed in a slightly different grain, they have a dreamy feel. In this episode particularly, Trudy narrates us through some of the flashback, giving us some expository stuff but in a nice snippet-like way. They really do come off as pieces of memories.


Hap and Trudy have it out a bit, as the former sits with Leonard asleep on his shoulder, both duct taped to one another still. Trudy is going for broke on this latest scheme, following Howard – “Even if it means this?” asks Hap. So who knows what’s next for the unshakeable duo.
In the morning, Leonard decides they should just get up and go, glider on their back and everything. So they do. While Chub sleeps, they manage to get up and start heading towards the wood. They argue and bitch and get a good ways before Paco’s there, right behind them. Good effort, fellas. More duct tape for them both.
Then everyone’s packed in the van. Trudy and Howard decided on their own to only give a “deposit” for their cocaine deal, which drives Paco wild. And who are they meeting exactly? Why it’s Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh), and the maniacal Soldier (Jimmi Simpson). Certainly not going to be any trouble, right?
Things start getting brutal once Soldier calls Leonard a “nigger“, over and over, and Chub does not like that. He gets mouthy, not making anybody happy. And then Paco blows his brains out. Soldier and Angel take control of things, and Howard is devastated. It was all a fuck over. Paco did them in dirty. I knew something had to happen either way. Problem is they never brought all that money, so y’know, now they’ve got to go get that so Soldier and Angel don’t splatter everyone’s brains around the room.


Soldier: “Shhhhh. I do like to hear myself as Im speaking.”


On the way in the van, Soldier gets crude, wondering who Trudy is with currently. He figures it’s whoever has the “biggest ankle spanker“, which he determines is Leonard. Of course it comes out he’s gay and more of Leonard being a straight up bad ass. All sorts of focus on Trudy, taking her down a few notches. Then there’s more of Soldier getting naughty, talking about Angel, their sexual relationship. Finally, Trudy defends herself a bit and says she won’t give Soldier “the satisfaction of being scared“, which makes things incredibly tense. Even worse when the cops are parked on the road where they’re all headed. “I love cops,” says Soldier with an odd look in his eyes.
Soldier does a good song and dance until Paco pulls his crossbow and pops a cop. This starts a massacre, as they finish off the other one, and Angel shoots a few more “essential” rounds into the already dead one. This horrifies everyone in the van, naturally. Hap and Leonard are along for a very dangerous ride.


Extremely excited for the next chapter, the penultimate “War” again directed by Jim Mickle. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans. It’s getting dark and dirty now.

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 3: “The Dive”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Dive”
Directed by Nick Gomez
Written by E.L. Katz

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Bottoms” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Trudy” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.08.21 AM
A new chapter in the stories of Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams).
After “The Bottoms”, we now find Hap and Trudy Fawst (Christina Hendricks) still laying next to the water. A flashback shows us when Hap was getting served papers for dodging the draft. Cut to Howard (Bill Sage), Chub (Jeff Pope) and Paco (Neil Sandilands) discovering them laying there together. When Hap finally comes to things aren’t too awkward.
Meanwhile, Leonard wakes up after a night with his man, who’s busy making breakfast for them both. I fucking love Leonard. He loves hot sauce as much as I do.


Leonard: “Yeah I like spice. Cant taste unless it lights my ass on fire.”


Part of why I love Hap in particular is because he doesn’t buy into the 1960s hippy bullshit. Not after taking it hard for believing in all of that stuff when Vietnam was calling. But still, he is a rebel. Despite not digging on the peace and love and “fighting against the man“-type stuff, Hap is on the other side. He’s just a part of the middle class. He’s not, as Karl Marx might say, part of the lumpenproletariat such as somebody like Howard. Hap is all proletariat. He and Leonard come together so perfectly because of their similar situations in life, despite race. Yet Hap’s love for Trudy buys him into the current plan.
Great little conversation between Leonard and his boyfriend Raoul (Enrique Murciano). The latter talks a bit about hoping George Bush will be better than “that actor” Reagan. Even though Leonard believes him to have been a “damn good” one. Joe Lansdale’s writing shows here with the portrayal of Leonard, as the adaptation gives us a great look into the normal life of a gay couple at home. It isn’t pigeonholed and cliched. It’s simply two dudes, in love, conflicted, and all that stuff.
But it’s Hap and Leonard whose relationship shines through most. For the time being, Leonard isn’t sure about the “hippie scavenger hunt” while his partner wants answers soon. “A mull takes as long as a mull takes,” explains Leonard.
Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.22.49 AMScreen Shot 2016-03-17 at 1.23.48 AM
The desperate nature of Hap is always present. Even after a phone call, he checks the money slot in case of quarters. The reality of a character is always interesting, and Hap is real. He’s a broke, and broken in senses, type of a man. Always struggling to stay afloat, like so many of us (myself including). Part of that is honourable because he makes it work, no matter the odds. Part of that also leads him down the garden path. Right now he’s following Trudy down a path Howard is breaking in. Who knows where that’s headed.
A song on the radio takes Hap back through time. We get glimpses of Hap with Trudy. “Aint a time machine, Hap,” says Leonard, warning of nostalgia. Then they have a hilarious little moment over the radio. Their comedic charm together is unreal, leaves me insatiable because they feel like such good friends.
Soon we follow a woman home from the gas station where Hap and Leonard stopped. She arrives home to find her door open, blaming it on herself. Uh oh. We know where this is headed, right? She comes across Soldier (Jimmi Simpson) and Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh) and this ends terribly; for her. These two are wildly psychopathic.


On the river, Hap and Leonard get things ready for their adventure. They set up some gator bait, as Leonard goes diving. What a wild time. “The world dont run on fairy dust,” says Leonard, as they talk about the plans of Howard and his gang of hippies.
Below the water Hap comes across some human remains, including a mask; the damn car! Then in a bit of excited fright he gets stuck. When Leonard spots a gator in the water things get tense. Meanwhile, Hap dreams of Trudy, back before he went to jail, her promises, her talk of how noble it is to do what he’s done, what he’ll do. Luckily Leonard hauls Hap out of the water and to safety.
News of the woman murdered earlier hits the news. But nobody worries, because for now Angel and Soldier do their nefarious deeds unbeknownst to Paco, who they’re apparently headed towards.
Back to the lake with gear goes the Scooby Gang along with Hap and Leonard. The two pals head under the water once again, together this time and using lots more equipment. But up above some law enforcement patrols the river, putting everyone in lock down briefly, as Howard and the others lay low. Regardless, Hap and Leonard scoop up the contents of the sunken car, and everyone leaves in high spirits. Only on the road home they find police waiting. All because of Prescott Jones (Jay Potter). So the gang recedes into the night instead of crashing at Howard’s place.


At Leonard’s house, they check out the findings from the river. Drinks and weed are broken out. A celebration. Some Nila cookies. “Crack a window,” Leonard shouts: “Smell like Woodstock in here.” Everyone has a good time, though, Leonard isn’t all that thrilled about hosting the get-together. His whiskey’s being drank, his table needs protection from the old mud caked cases from the car. Love the idiosyncrasies of his personality.
And just as much we get the personality of Hap, especially in this episode. The bits of his past come amazingly subtle with the short cuts to those flashbacks, as he goes in to jail sporting an American flag dress shirt they painted up and everything. The acting of Purefoy allows those memories to resonate in the moments we watch him in the current timeline while he connects with Trudy again. Their connection’s marred by his inability to connect with the ideology she’s about nowadays, and has always been. He’s changed, she hasn’t, and that doesn’t allow him what he wants: “I just want to be with you,” Hap tells Trudy. Not enough for her, apparently.
In the kitchen, Howard and Paco discover one of the cases of money is rotten. All the bills, or most of them, soaked and moldy. Then Hap and Leonard find themselves on the end of guns – Chub, Howard, and Paco are taking all the money left. That’s their decision now after doing little to no work. I knew something had to happen.


What’ll come next in the wild tales of Hap and Leonard? Find out wtih me next in the episode titled “Trudy”, which hopefully will give us more on the lady herself. Surely there’s going to be excitement either way. And hopefully, finally, Soldier and Angel will meet the gang.

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 2: “The Bottoms”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 2: “The Bottoms”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici & Mickle

* For a review of the Season 1 premiere “Savage Season” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Dive” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 3.30.06 PM
After the fantastic premiere, Hap and Leonard continues with the second episode, “The Bottoms” – named after one of the Joe R. Lansdale novels.
A couple little black kids head out into the woods where someone was supposedly hung. One of the boys has a gun with him, but they end up getting creeped out and running off after finding a tree with a rope over it. Even worse, they stumble across the dead cop from the premiere’s finale – the one murdered by Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Soldier (Jimmi Simpson).
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 3.30.22 PM
Poor Hap Collins (James Purefoy) wakes up, still next to the Marvel Creek sign. He’s clearly hungover, and dying to take a leak. Hilarious, brief scene where he starts pissing on a bit of roadkill, but moves over politely: “Sorry, buddy,” he tells the dead animal.
Back over at the shack where Howard (Bill Sage) and Trudy (Christina Hendricks), and the others, lay their heads. Except everyone else is already up, including Chub (Jeff Pope) and Paco (Neil Sandilands). So instead of getting themselves out of there quickly, Hap and Leonard (Michael K. Williams) are saddled with Chub and Paco at the request of Howard.
Then up shows Prescott Jones (Jay Potter) trying to convert a few lost souls over to the Lord. He “sells the Lords word“, apparently. But Paco comes out and drives the man off in as unfriendly a fashion as possible. I can’t help but wonder where and how Prescott will end up back in the mix. Can’t only be a one-off scene, seems too convenient.
With Paco and Chub along for the ride, off head Hap and Leonard. The four don’t get along perfectly, that’s for sure. I’m interested in Paco, what his backstory might be, especially considering the intro to Soldier at the end of the premiere episode. Paco and Leonard certainly come up against one another, while Hap smirks and goes along to get along. For now.
Later on, we get more on Hap’s character, as well as Paco. Those who know the stories already know Hap went to jail as a younger man for refusing to go to Vietnam, so there’s a whole other aspect to Hap (especially in his relationship to Leonard) we start seeing. Also, Paco was part of a group called The Mechanics; he was “a bombmaker who blew himself up“, so says Hap. And then a great scene where Chub gets stuck in a muddy pit, before the boys haul him out – Chub ends up losing his pants to the muck.


Cut to a diner where Trudy works. She serves some customers who would rather flirt. One of them knocks a drink over purposefully. At the next table, Soldier and Angel sit eating; he quickly picks up the drink for Trudy. They have an awkward encounter, too. Almost ominous. “She likes it bloody,” Soldier explains re: Angel’s meat preferences. Closer and closer come the villains to Hap and Leonard’s front door.
Back at the weird hippy ranch, Howard serves up tofu for everybody. Evidently he’s a vegetarian: “Didnt see that comin‘,” says Leonard with all possible sarcasm. Then there’s Howard, who we get more of – a hippy with big ideas, but no what to execute them himself. He sort of represents the worst of idealism. He has lots of plans in his head, lots of dreams. But he gets other people to do the dirty work, the hard labour. So with all his talk of being for the “have nots“, he uses Hap and Leonard like any other member of the upper class would the proletariat. They’re both expendable working hands to Howard. And Hap knows that, in his heart. He just wants money, to get out of the hole he’s in right now. Trudy says that Leonard sees the world “through dirty glasses“, but Hap replies: “Maybe the world is dirty.”


Trudy: “Maybe I should leave, so you two can put your dicks on the table, next to them toothpicks.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 3.50.50 PM
Now we see more of Uncle Chester (Henry G. Sanders) in his little house. He’s writing, listening to a vinyl record and eating a bowl of oats. But he quickly collapses from some sort of pain. All alone, on the floor.
Cut back to Hap and Leonard sleeping at Howard’s place. They chat a little before falling asleep. Turns out Leonard at least likes the man’s cooking, specifically those yummy string beans. One benefit of vegetarianism.
The next morning, Hap and Leonard let the air out of the hippy van then take off on their way to start tracking down the bridge on Sabine River. Smart cookies, those two. They go hacking and slashing with machetes through the thick brush, finding nothing other than swamp ahead. Out of nowhere, Hap stops and looks happily into the forest, noticing an old sign on a tree he remembers. They step a little further and the bridge appears. One problem: “Wheres the god damn river?” Leonard asks. It’s dried up, disappeared. The pair head to a bar, so they can lick their wounds. Leonard figures it’s probably a bullshit story out of prison, while Hap sulks. Their friendship is more and more evident all the time, just in the dialogue between these two. They know each other inside and out.
Added to that, in the background of the bar scene you can see Prescott Jones. What’s he up to? Sly dog.


Leonard has to head back into town after hearing about Chester. Trudy gives her condolences. Although, Leonard’s more concerned about Hap: “You just a ball he keeps chasininto the street,” he tells Trudy. She seems to believe Leonard needs Hap more than vice versa. She doesn’t realize they both need one another.
At the hospital, Leonard visits his uncle. It’s touching to see him love his family so much, even while Chester shits all over him for being gay. Moreover, we get a quick moment between Leonard and a male nurse, which almost speaks of romance; yet it’s hard to tell. There’s a flashback then to a young Leonard, watching a dead body get wheeled by under a sheet, while a younger Chester holds him close. His uncle, no matter how surly, obviously meant something to him.
Love the scene right after where Leonard boxes a bunch of tires hung like a bag, and you can see the frustration, the anger in him bleeding out. And the male nurse shows up out of the blue, bearing food. So they do have a relationship! They did, anyways. Apparently they’ve broken up, according to the records he returns to Leonard. Meanwhile, Hap and Trudy take a drive, their relationship coming up in conversation. Love how there’s equal attention paid to these relationships, even getting in a bit of lovemaking between Leonard and his former partner. Furthermore, Trudy explains to Hap about how the new river ended up out of the old one, and where the flooding may have landed the car with the money. Impressive stuff. “A little ambition goes a long way,” Trudy says to Hap: “You told me that once.” But husband Howard’s been left out – he sees the maps with moved pins, the absence of both Trudy and Hap from the shack, and wonders exactly what’s going on.


Will Hap and Trudy get to be together again? “Im just not interested in the downtrodden anymore,” Hap tells her: “Im one of them.” She wants someone like Howard, but more like Hap and Howard; she wants the ideals of Howard, with the strength, the execution, the power of Hap. Yet clearly, after being a bit of a hippy himself, Hap has discovered what living in the lower class is like. Probably what bonded him so closely to Leonard so many years, forming their concrete friendship.
Out in a boat together, looking for the location of the car in a different spot, a lake near Sabine Island, Trudy and Hap do locate a license plate for the car. They also nearly get swallowed up by gators, or crocodiles; not sure on the biology. Then, after getting onto the shore, the two former lovers come together. Again. It’s hard to deny, their chemistry. Obviously neither of them wants to let the other go, but so much comes between them. Not when sex is on the table, though. And sex on the beach (sort of)? I mean, they’re stuck on each other.


More excitement to come surely once the next episode “The Dive” airs. Stay tuned with me, as we navigate this excellent adaptation of Lansdale further.

Hap and Leonard – Season 1, Episode 1: “Savage Season”

SundanceTV’s Hap and Leonard
Season 1, Episode 1
: “Savage Season”
Directed by Jim Mickle
Teleplay by Nick Damici & Mickle

* For a review of the following episode, “The Bottoms” – click here
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.48.16 PM
The premiere episode of Hap and Leonard begins with a great bit of action and some good ole CCR (“Up Around the Bend”). In 1968, we watch a car chase heading through Marvel Creek, Texas. Cops are hot on the trail of a couple men who’ve clearly pulled off a big heist. In the backseat, one of them bleeds out, money alongside for the ride. Only the driver does a Dukes of Hazard jump and puts the vehicle into a river. The gutshot man makes it out onto the shore, only to pass out and let fly a bunch of bills.
In Laborde, Texas – jump two decades to 1988 – Hap Collins (James Purefoy) and Leonard Pine (Michael K. Williams) work side by side on a rose farm. They end up fire at the end of the day because cheap Mexican labourers are a plenty. We get a look from Hap to Leonard, almost alerting us to their personalities immediately; Leonard proceeds to tear a bunch of roses up out of the ground. Hap is a little more calm while Leonard is the hotter head of the pair. But they’re incredibly close friends. They do a master-slave routine that might sound dumb put that way, however, it shows the close relationship between them evidently right off the start. Plus, Purefoy and Williams work so well together, their chemistry is what grabbed me quick in the opening to the episode.
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.48.24 PM
Leonard: “You can take a mans job, but you cant take his cookies.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.48.34 PM
The tension in their relationship starts once Trudy (Christina Hendricks) arrives. It’s obvious Leonard does not like her, he warns Hap – obviously Hap’s got a softer spot for Trudy than him. Leonard reminds Hap of an important thing to remember: “A stiff dick aint got no conscience.” But I love Hap, too. They’re both clever and likeable, albeit in their own ways. Hap is honest and straight up, as is Leonard, but they’ve each got their distinct sense of dialogue. Further than that, we get a quick read on Trudy, as well. She apparently criticized Leonard for enlisting and going to Vietnam: “If no one would fight, thered be no wars,” she says revealing her innocently ignorant perspective on life.
And no sooner that they end up in bed together does she admit to Hap: “I need your help.” So does she really have all those feelings she claims? Or is Trudy more trouble than we can imagine? Probably a reason Leonard can’t stand her. So Leonard calls Hap up later, even quipping – “Nice knowinya, brother.”
Love the racial aspect of the series, in the South. All those lingering feelings of the Civil War and other bits of history still float around; to this day. In fact, that’s why Lansdale is suited to be adapted now because it speaks to some of the issues America specifically is still tackling. Even better, Leonard also brings more to the table as a character than simply being black in the South.
When Trudy offers up a supposed plan to make $200,000, all of a sudden Hap seems intrigued. Good for the pocket, bad for the love life/psyche.


Leonard: “This Leonard you talkinto. Not some rose field nigger.”
Hap: “Except you are a rose field nigger. And so am I; a white one.”


Of course Hap brings the deal to Leonard.  We get more of their relationship here, which is excellently adapted from Lansdale. Their bond is strong, as Hap throws a few obviously joking racial jokes around, and you can tell they’re friends for life because Leonard only throws him a smile. Then he throws a jab, the two of them boxing together. Such a good scene. Then we have Trudy in the mix, which Leonard hates. She talks about her husband Howard (Bill Sage) in prison; he ended up in jail with the man from the beginning – Softboy McCall (Trace Cheramie) – who knew about the money at the bottom of the river. Well that guy met a rough death at the hands of a crazy fellow inmate, over a brownie in the cafeteria. Now, only Howard knows the location. And Trudy wants to cut Hap in because he supposedly knows the location of the bridge on Sabine River, having been no strange to that area when he was a kid.
A local cop comes down to see the boys. Leonard’s Uncle Chester (Henry G. Sanders) got into an altercation and threatened to jam a cane up the officer’s ass – “sideways” at that. But what we see here is the other angle to Leonard and his character. His uncle has no time for Leonard’s homosexuality, apparently: “Keep your faggot hands off me,” Chester barks at his nephew.
We further see Hap’s love for Leonard, as a friend. He quietly hauls Chester aside before they drop him off and explains: “Now I dont like dick anymore than you do, but he does. But thats his business. He dont need you ridinhim on it. So you do that in front of me again and Im gontake that cane, shove it up your ass, break it clean off. Understood?” I like that Hap doesn’t mince words and act like he’s making an excuse; Leonard is who he is, and that’s totally fine with him. As it ought to be.
More than that, Leonard shows us how fucking tough he is by knocking a big drug dealer on his ass. And I mean he really works this guy over, and quick, too. So don’t bring foolish stereotypes to this series (as anyone who’s read Lansdale already knows) – Leonard Pine is his own man. A great strong gay/black character.


Another thing I love is Hap not being a fan of guns. Between him and Leonard, they defy any pigeonhole you can try to put them in. They are not stereotypes of Southerners, yet at the same time they are very Southern. Which is a commendable aspect of these characters, obviously coming out of the original series of novels. Lansdale’s characters come out well with Mickle writing.
Another angle to the ever interesting Leonard is that he’s a Vietnam vet. Being gay and black, people might expect him to lean towards the counterculture trend that came out of the ’60s and ’70s. No, no. Not Leonard. He’s got no time for it. We figure this out once meeting Trudy’s husband Howard, as well as his buddies Chub (Jeff Pope) and the disfigured silent-type of fellow Paco (Neil Sandilands). Howard is a hugger, embracing Hap right off the bat, and trying to give Leonard one – though, he only succeeds on the former. A hilarious little scene here, which further shows us how determined Hap and Leonard are; they’ve got no time for Howard’s hippy dippy bullshit. While Howard has noble intentions, or at least acts like he does, they don’t exactly impress either of the pair. Especially not Leonard. Also, there is the fact Hap obviously loves Trudy, who bedded him while still having a husband – seeing Howard hold her hand almost drives him nuts. They’ve obviously got an open relationship. Hap isn’t into that sort of thing; he’s a lover, a real one.


Howard: “And wheres your piece of the American Pie, Leonard?”
Leonard: “Oh, I ate mine.”
Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 1.19.56 PM
The finale of the episode is solid. Hap heads off to do a bit of emotional drinking. A suspicious blue car is at the gas station where Hap buys beer. He ends up at the sign just outside Marvel Creek, Texas. A flashback sees a young Hap with his father Bud (Ron Roggé), driving along in the truck. Bud makes a remark about a black man out in the rain, using the word “nigger” – we can see the learned behaviour here, which Hap obviously rejects as an adult. But it presses the issue of how that sort of thing is passed down by family members, in particular. At the same time, though, Bud ends up stopping to go help. Is there more to this story? Or is this showing us there was a good person underneath Bud Collins, even with his use of that horrible N-word? Either way, it tells us about who Hap’s become over the years in some ways.
At the very end of “Savage Season”, we’re introduced to Soldier (Jimmi Simpson). He’s the one sitting in the suspicious blue car at the station. A police officer goes to talk with him about a taillight, discovering Soldier’s possibly high, as well as the fact there’s a noise inside his trunk. An excellent first scene to introduce this character, plus that of the woman who slits the cop’s throat, Angel (Pollyanna McIntosh). They’re in Marvel Creek looking for Paco. Bloody and violent entry for these two, clearly poised as a big threat.


Amazing opening episode to this series. Exceeded my expectations.
The next episode is titled “The Bottoms” after one of the novels from Lansdale. Stay tuned with me, friends and fellow fans.

Cold in July: Joe R. Lansdale’s Neo-Noir Scorches Onscreen

Cold in July. 2014. Dir. Jim Mickle. Written by Nick Damici, based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale.
Starring Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw, Wyatt Russell, and Nick Damici.
IFC Films.
Rated R. 109 minutes.
Crime/Thriller

★★★★★
cold-in-july-poster
Fatherhood and morality are the central themes in Jim Mickle’s fantastic adaptation of the Joe R. Lansdale novel Cold in July. While the plot is centered around two fathers, both in different circumstances, morality is what eventually drives them: one worries about his own morality, the other is faced with the unquestionable lack of morals in his son. Though, the two fathers face different questions of morality, their path ends up as an identical course leading them into the dark heart of man and outside the confines of the law.

If someone broke into your home, threatening not only your own life but the lives of your family, and you shot them dead, would you be content walking away no questions asked? In the aftermath of a break-in where Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall) was put in just such a situation, he begins to suspect the local law lead by Ray Price (Nick Damici) are misleading him as to the identity of the man he killed. After a dangerous encounter with Russel (Sam Shepard), the dead man’s ex-con father, Richard ends up saving the man’s life from the same cops lying to them both. Determined to figure out the truth of who Richard killed and the real whereabouts of Russel’s son, both men set out on a dangerous path crossing between law enforcement and the Dixie Mafia.
cold_in_julyThe scene most perfectly done is where Jim Bob (Don Johnson) and Richard watch a videotape revealing the whereabouts of Russel’s son. It shows him involved in some very despicable, rotten behaviour. Real immoral activity. First of all, there is a real savage moment, which Mickle really does well. Despite there being an opportunity for a bit of really graphic violence, the director strays from actually showing the moment of impact; we feel it much more, I think. Instead of actually seeing the violent shot, it cuts away right before the brutality. Furthermore, while Jim Bob and Richard are watching the video, Russel is upstairs trying to muster the mental energy to actually call his son. Earlier, Jim Bob had told him to stop being such a “cranky old bastard” and just call his son, but Russel refused at the time. So while we’re expecting him to end up calling his son, and where a lesser film might just have an emotional sort of scene to further the fatherhood theme, Cold in July pulls those heartstrings a little – yet Russel does not call him. We see the moments with the videotape, simultaneously Russel is about to possibly call, and just as we imagine he will, he hangs up the phone.
I was anticipating him giving in, not realizing what was being seen on the video downstairs. However, he sees it afterwards, and I was really glad he hadn’t called, or worse actually gotten in contact with his son. I’m not sure why I’m glad, but for me it was a subversion of my expectations. Plus, there is just nice suspense in the tension built up through this scene, from the juxtaposition of the video being watched & Russel next to the phone, to the videotape itself and how unsettlingly it was paced. Great, great moment in this film.
Cold_in_July_JPEGI know a lot of people mention the film’s score, and rightfully so because there is a very retro 80’s feel about the music. It really is excellent. Not only does it serve as a throwback-style score, the ambient nature of some pieces really lend themselves to the overall atmosphere and mood of the film. There are certain movies that try to force the whole electronic score. In the end this never works. On the other hand, Cold in July already plays like something I can imagine coming out of the 1980’s. With the electronic score, this mood really comes across. Without straining too hard in the costume/set/et cetera departments, the electronic score really helps this feel like a period piece. While there’s no outright stating this film takes place in any specific decade, the novel itself was written in 1989, and I think the movie (I’ve never personally read this novel) really puts across a feel of being from that time. The score is one way to push this forward without really focusing on coming across as an actual period piece. This sort of alleviates any pressure to fully conform to the decade, but the music helps to easily plant the story in the 80’s. It doesn’t hurt Hall has an awesomely awful hairdo from that era.
cold-in-july-3Usually a film, if it’s a good one, will have at least one real good performance. I can’t really think of a movie I loved where there’s not one performance I enjoyed. That’s sort of a nonsense thing to even expect. That being said, Cold in July sports three really big and spectacular roles played amazingly by Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson, and Sam Shepard.
Cold-In-July-3cropIn particular, Hall does a fantastic job here. Especially considering his recent and arguably most recognized performance as Dexter (although I always remember him best as the meek David Fisher from HBO’s Six Feet Under). A lot of people would like to typecast Hall into leading roles where he’s this very controlled, dominant type who is full of confidence. In my mind, Hall can play anything, however, he does good work with very mild-mannered individuals, such as Richard Dane here. Also, where Dexter was a certain kind of rumination on morality, albeit from a much different angle, Cold in July shows us a more realistic version of morality in that Dane is a father, a framer by trade; a regular man. Hall plays his vulnerability clearly, openly. The turning point comes in the final 15-minutes of the film when Richard is in the midst of a gunfight. Now, we see the real transformation from where he began, as a man incapable of steadily firing a gun – when he kills the intruder, he looks at the gun surprised, and even more so once discovering he shot the guy right through his eye socket. In this finale, Richard is a confident man, having discovered his own morality through disposing of, what most of would see as, human waste. Hall played this so well – there’s a look he gives, almost as if right to the camera but not, as he walks away from a freshly killed man. Perfect.

It’s hard not to mention Shepard and Johnson, as well. Shepard was phenomenal. As usual, though. I really love him, both as an actor and writer. What a great talent. There is a fantastic moment in the finale where there’s this ironic and bittersweet moment (SPOILER AHEAD) – Russel shoots his own son to prevent him from killing Richard. The irony comes from how the film started with Russel stalking Richard because he believed him to have killed his son. The bittersweet kicks in when Russel tells Freddy that he is his father. Freddy asks if he really is, and Russel replies “Far as I know” before pulling the trigger right in front of his son’s two eyes. Really great acting.
Johnson was a supporting role, though with a decent bit of screentime compared with Hall and Shepard. Regardless, he is worth every penny. There’s something about the character of Jim Bob I really loved. I think it’s because he could have been a very stereotypical Dixie-type, and he was in certain subtle senses. But the fact Johnson plays him without a hillbilly yeehaw in his voice and step, the fact he doesn’t ham it up in this way, really does the character, and the film overall, a lot of justice. Johnson is just straight up cool as Jim Bob. I don’t think there’s anyone else I’d rather see playing this role. Not to mention he is a regular bad ass when the action-packed finale of the film comes barreling at you.
cold-in-july-2This is one of my favourite crime-thrillers in recent memory. It’s also a really great neo-noir. One of the better examples for a long while. The great performances by all three of the top billed stars really helps, however, Cold in July contains more than just that, including a very moody electronic score, a tight script, and the fact Joe Lansdale’s novel served as a basis for the screenplay helps an enormous amount. He is a great storyteller. Nick Damici, who adapted the novel into a screenplay, is a screenwriter to watch; I’ve enjoyed his previous work. He and Mickle do well together. There’s also some fun, gnarly violence in the finale of Cold in July to really tickle the hounds out there. Even a few interesting, subtle moments, such as those including revisiting the initial murder; shots of Richard and his family on the couch right where the dead man was killed and the blood sprayed on the wall, and quiet little bits like those (such as the very final shot) juxtaposed with the other highly violent scenes.
Check this out as soon as possible. I can’t wait to get my hands on a Blu ray release.