Directors: Trygve Allister Diesen, Lucky McKee
Novel: Jack Ketchum
Screenplay: Stephen Susco
Producers: Steve Blair, Trygve Allister Diesen, Norman Dreyfuss
Starring: Brian Cox, Noel Fisher, Tom Sizemore, Kyle Gallner, Shiloh Fernandez, Robert Englund, Amanda Plummer
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 98 min
Country of Origin: USA
Toronto After Dark Film Festival
If there’s one film that doesn’t quite snap into place as easily as the others in this year’s After Dark festival, it’s most certainly Red. With little violence, no sci-fi or fantasy aspect involved and completely devoid of ghouls, goblins or vampires it is a bit of a head scratcher as to why this film was chosen as part of this year’s line-up. That is not to say the movie isn’t good or worthy of a watch, but maybe not the right crowd here.
The story is simple enough. Judging from the trailer, one might assume that Red is a traditional revenge picture chock full of audience cheering blood letting and impalements. It really couldn’t be much further from the truth. All Avery Ludlow (Cox) wants to do is enjoy a quiet day of fishing. His peaceful day by the lake takes a harsh turn however when a group of three rowdy teens show up, attempt to rob Avery and then when they don’t get what they want, shoot the man’s dog with a shotgun before leaving in laughter. Avery is able to track the boys down and confronts their father (Sizemore) hoping to, at the very least, get an apology and maybe some parental punishment. But as we see the apple usual doesn’t fall from the tree and the father is even less sympathetic and equally as morally repugnant as his boys. The tale then leads Avery to seek out justice but failing at every turn; from lawyers, friends, media and police, he just seems to be getting closer and closer to nowhere. As his frustration escalates, so do the consequences of his actions until the situation reaches critical mass.
What works best in this film is the sympathy and damn near empathy we can feel for Avery. He’s not out to cut anyone’s throat or have some stupid kids put away for life. All he wants is for the kids to admit their guilt, understand that what they did was wrong and apologize. When they refuse and things get worse and worse for Avery, it might be easy for an outsider to tell him to just let it go. But putting oneself in his shoes, you can understand why he can’t. Despite the harsher and harsher consequences to his actions, he continues to pursue justice with no avail. And it is easy to understand why.
I can’t recall seeing Brian Cox as memorable in a film as he is in Red. Since I last saw him in a motion picture, he has somehow managed to bring something into those quiet eyes. There’s a fire there that I haven’t ever seen before. While it is a highly subdued performance, the storm that brews beneath surface is quite prevalent and while there’s not a chance in hell for any sort of Oscar nod, it is quite a noteworthy performance; especially coming from someone you might not expect. Add top-notch performances from all of our antagonists and it ends up being an unlikely, cast-heavy film.
The problem lies in the film’s lack of anything close to an edge. Take away a bit of the swearing and you’ve got the epitome of a ‘made-for-TV’ feature. Although I’ve never been able to adequately explain the vibe that one gets from this type of movie, Red exhibits all of those unexplainable qualities to a tee. This doesn’t necessarily make for a bad movie, it’s just that it lacks a certain edginess and “high quality” vibe that other films of this nature might hold.
So while the film does stray from the typical vengeance picture and does have some high caliber performances, it really struggles to say anything particularly thought provoking or give us any hard-core visuals or emotion. Mostly the film just fell a bit flat by the end, even though the journey was somewhat interesting and easy to identify with. If nothing else though, for those looking for a performance quite engaging from an actor of which you might not expect, Brian Cox delivers nicely here.
Click “play” to see the trailer: