Monday, September 26, 2011

Red White & Blue

Written & Directed by: Simon Rumley

Starring: Noah Taylor, Amanda Fuller, Marc Senter

Rating: 7/10

Independent U.S. thriller Red White and Blue is a fascinating specimen indeed. As delicate in its portrayal of love as it is explicit in its portrayal of violence, the film begins as a strangely voyeuristic exploitation film, playing like a series of vignettes and ends as an intensely non-judgmental exploration of moral boundaries. Unique and certain to plague your thoughts for a long time after it ends, this is a thoroughly original, though not entirely successful piece of work from director Simon Rumley.

Erica is a dark, damaged young woman who enjoys picking up men in seedy bars, but never sleeps with the same one twice. She keeps to herself, doesn't "do friendship" and is generally a closed book. Nate is an army vet, with links to the CIA who has a history of animal torture and lives in Erica's building. He is as damaged as Erica but with a slightly more vulnerable air. Erica is interested in this mysterious stranger but doesn't want to sleep with him. It must be love. Meanwhile Franki, a rock musician who indulged in an orgy with his bandmates and Erica has received some shocking news that sets up the final, gruesome act.

It's unfair to categorise this as a horror film as there is nothing here designed to scare the audience. It is not a film that keeps you in suspense either. Red White and Blue is very much a human drama, despite it's showy display of violence towards the end. The central couple, Erica and Nate, are two tragic characters and their slow bonding and eventual coming together is the stuff of indie drama, not horror, but there is a looming sense of tragedy as we see flashes of a seriously dark side to Nate, an otherwise extremely likeable character. In fact, he is so likeable that this makes the final half hour even more difficult to watch since you can't help but feel his pain and you may enter some very murky moral ground.

The film is structured in such a way that the focus shifts between characters. We start off with Erica who is played by a perfectly cast Amanda Fuller. Her performance is brave, subtle and so interesting that she goes from unlikeable to desperately sad and vulnerable as the film goes on. The second character we explore is Franki and a huge problem for me watching the film is that I couldn't bring myself to like this character no matter how hard I tried. As with the other characters, he has his dark side and his light side but I just couldn't stand him. Maybe it's my dislike for soul-searching hipster types but not being able to sympathise with him really dampened my enjoyment of the film, particularly as events begin to unfold. If this character had worked better I think the plot as a whole would have felt more effective. By far the best thing about the film is the great Noah Taylor, digging right down into the pits of darkness for this role and giving us a side of him we haven't seen before. A genuinely scary, monstrous romantic lead. The blend of innocence, sweetness and pure psychotic rage ensures that the audiences head is spinning by the end of the film. The final shot of the film is somewhat heartbreaking and in a nice little play on time perception, we get a rather poignant little twist in the tale that reminds us exactly what the film is really about. Two damaged people who, for a fleeting second, found love.

With nothing to go on but the fact that Noah Taylor was in it (pretty safe bet) and a pretty frightening trailer I gave this film a chance and I'm glad I did. While the film definitely has its problems, I was pleasantly surprised to find that beneath its gruesome surface it is a film with a big heart and, in an unconventional way, wears it on its sleeve. The film will not be to everyone's taste but it has a certain resonance that is all too rare in genre films.

The film will be released in the UK on 10th October.

 - Charlene Lydon

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:33 PM

    Great article Charlene. Three years later, I have now watched this movie for the first time. It is all that you said and more. I especially loved the portrayal of Nate by one of my favorite actors, Noah Taylor. I have always enjoyed watching his movies since his earlier roles (The Year My Voice Broke, Flirting, Shine, etc.) and always found him to be one of those great character actors who have always averted the typical Hollywood roles and are always willing to sink their teeth into the more meatier roles in the Indie film industry.
    And what a surprise turn for Amanda Fuller. I mostly remember her from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and various other US television series. She was amazing in this role as well and despite her character flaws, you felt a deep sense of sympathy for this young woman.