Monday, November 03, 2008

Red: Grade B

Red (2008)
Brian Cox, Tom Sizemore. Co-directors Trygve Allister Diesen
Lucky McKee.

It is a pleasure to see Brian Cox in a leading role like this. He was a standout actor (about the only one) in The Bourne Supremacy. Here he plays a taciturn gentleman retired to his country home in western Oregon, living more or less in seclusion. He wears a bulky, plaid cloth jacket and a wide-brim cowboy hat, moves slowly and drives a beat up, 20 year old pickup. While fishing at the river one day, with his old dog, Red, he is robbed by three hoodlum youths. He has no money, so in frustration, the nutty kid shoots his dog dead. The boys get away, and from there, a tale of revenge develops.

The old man wants the boys to apologize because the way he construes the world, that's how things should work. He tracks down the ringleader and speaks to his rich, arrogant father (Sizemore), who dismisses the old man’s entreaty. Slowly and methodically, the old man finds each of the boys and talks to him, with little result except to increase tension. The tension grows palpably with each additional encounter until there is a completely out-of-character, unmotivated, and not-believable bloody gunfight ending that spoils the whole story.

Obviously, the producers were not comfortable with the slow pace of inner development, so grabbed for an easy “fix”. But the best payback is not death. It is the opponent’s own self-destruction or self-torture. Or alternately, the old man could have come to the conclusion that some people are immune to moral argument, and realized that his social construction of reality was wrong. Or, there are numerous occasions where he could have used the law to pursue the opponents, with assault charges, for example. Despite the ruinous turn of the plot however, acting by Cox and Sizemore are worth seeing and the characterizations are above average in the first half of the film.

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