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rochefort [Film Festival 03.31.10] review thriller drama

Year: 2010
Directors: Simon Rumley
Writers: Simon Rumley
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 7 out of 10

Erica (Amanda Fuller) is damaged goods, an emotionally-unavailable free spirit who works odd jobs by day and hops bars and beds by night. She never sleeps with any guy more than once, and staunchly refuses to let any of her many one night stands use condoms, including Franki (Marc Senter), one of three young struggling musicians who bed her one night in a spontaneous threesome. Erica later settles down with a job at a hardware store and meets Nate (Noah Taylor), a subtly dangerous loner who, despite his seemingly deluded stories about working for the CIA, eventually wins Erica's trust, and is the only man in her life who doesn't try to immediately get her into the sack. But their developing relationship is interrupted when Franki learns the sobering secret about Erica and kidnaps her.

Director Simon Rumley ("The Living and the Dead") has in "Red, White and Blue" made a film that is that weirdest of cinematic anomalies, at least to me: It's a really good film that I don't think I could readily recommend to much of anybody. It plumbs the depths of despair, and of inevitable, convergent brutality, and is almost Old Testament in the way the story metes out harsh and bitter retribution and punishment for our sins, but does so in a manner that is calculated enough to leave a genuinely bitter taste in the back of the throat. If this were based on a true story, perhaps the film's existence could be justified without second-guessing the filmmakers' intent. As is, it verges on sadism, but is nonetheless a seriously well-made movie. And before you go thinking "No big deal, I've watched 'Salo'; I've seen the bloodiest gialli; I eat horror films for breakfast", then know that that this isn't torture porn, or a gorefest, or even a horror film at all. Rather, this is cinema that exists alongside only a few peers such as Gaspar Noe's "Irreversible". This is cinema of the hopelessly bleak.

If you're at all familiar with the works of O. Henry, then you have some idea of what to expect in the narrative. There are twists, to be sure, but they ultimately amount to a tragedy of errors, and every character ends up in a much, much worse place than where they started. What's particularly grim about "Red..." is that most of them start from a place that's pretty freakin' depressing to begin with. Erica is a lonely, aimless drifter, on the surface little more than an emotional blank, but we glean little bits and pieces of her truer humanity here and there, and it ends up being just enough to break our hearts for her once we learn the truth behind her disconnectedness. Nate, recently "honorably discharged" after a tour of Iraq, has the cold exterior of someone who could either be a psycho killer or just a misunderstood loner, and he and Erica share so much obvious emotional damage that there's a brief glimmer of hope in the fact that they may in fact find each other. And Franki, the curly-haired modern primitive whose band is just about to build up some real momentum, at first comes off like the typcial self-absorbed rock wannabe, but as layers are peeled back we see that he, too, has a genuinely good heart, demonstrated in scenes where he cares for his cancer-stricken mother. These respective setups would normally play out as melodrama in a lesser director's hands, but Rumley is careful to keep things downplayed and wholly believable; it takes a little longer to come around and like each character, but they break through and eventually gain our sympathies. And it's right when we begin to root for them that the ground gives.

A distinctly three-act story, the first third concentrates on Erica. The second shifts to Franki, and this is where all the threads come together and we, the audience, realize that nothing good will come from the third, convergent act, Nate's final solution. The why's and wherefores that lead each character to the culmination are almost beside the point, which is why I'm not spoiling them, but be warned that the bleakness continues up until the final frame. And this brings us back to the underlying conceit: we're watching something that amounts to a slow-motion car wreck, one in which we see the inevitability of the disaster and are powerless to warn anyone involved. So what's the point of all this hopelessness? And does a movie need one to justify its existence? Fluff is fluff, easily ingested and just as easily forgotten, but it's so difficult to think of "Red..." as pure entertainment that it can't help but invite such questions. The fact that it manages to so provoke makes "Red, White and Blue" a worthy watch, but your willingness to deal with such questions will ultimately determine what value, entertainment or otherwise, you derive from the experience. At the very least, if you tend to avoid movies that will bring down your day, then you might want to give this one a wide berth.

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Michael Bartlett (11 years ago) Reply

"This is cinema of the hopelessly bleak."

Sounds awesome. Rumley is an amazing director, so anything by him is worth a watch.

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