An intense slow build filled with unlikable characters remains endlessly fascinating.
Red White & Blue, the new film from writer/director Simon Rumley, dares audiences to find a single, likable character in the film. While there are no werewolves, vampires or zombies and it’s debatable whether or not the film could even be classified as a horror movie, Red White & Blue is filled to the brim with monsters of all shapes and sizes.
Amanda Fuller plays Erica, an emotionally scarred young woman who is in the process of sleeping her way through the entirety of the city of Austin. Her life is a series of one-night stands, casual sex and just-under-the-surface seething anger. Noah Taylor, dropping his native Australian accent and sporting a pretty dang authentic southern drawl, is Nate, a mysterious drifter with a violent past. Nate lives in the same boarding house as Erica and is instantly drawn to the young woman. Erica, though, doesn’t want anything to do with the bearded, grungy veteran unless it can benefit her like accepting the small favors he drops her way (like hooking her up with a job) but treating him like crap every time they interact.
Over time, though, the two form somewhat of a connection — perhaps tied together through the mutually sized baggage they drag behind them like balls on chains. While their friendship never turns physical, the two form a closer bond than perhaps either had every previously experienced.
Before you begin to think this is a Nicholas Sparks novel or perhaps a Lifetime Original Movie, meet Franki, a wannabe rock and roll superstar played by Marc Senter. Despite a truly tragic sense of fashion (Feather earrings? Really?), Franki seems like a nice enough guy with a minor attitude problem. He dotes on his sick mother (donating blood to her on a regular basis). He works hard to further his band’s career and has somewhat of a stable relationship with his girlfriend. Despite occasionally being an asshole to his boss, Franki seems like your typical Austin indie rocker, i.e. somewhat of a jerk but cool to hang out with.
Unfortunately, Franki makes a fatal mistake by choosing to have unprotected sex with Erica during a post-rock concert orgy and discovers he now is HIV-positive and he’s infected his sick mother.
Franki’s discovery shines light on the fact that Erica has been knowingly sleeping around — seemingly infecting men with her disease on purpose.
Being a Fantastic Fest film, you can kind of expect where Red White & Blue goes from there. Let’s just say there’s revenge, mentally unstable veterans with knives and ducktape, and maybe even just a bit of child stabbing. Red White & Blue is brutal, unrelenting in is antipathy, and, as I mentioned above, almost completely devoid of likeable characters. It’s something to be said when a murderer is the most sympathetic character in a film.
While there is plenty of violence in the movie, most of it is either implied or shown off-screen or in just enough detail to get your heart racing without causing your soul to cry. Instead of being a torture porn film, Red White & Blue is more aptly seen as a character study told in haiku. That’s not to say that the movie rhymes or it has a Japanese influence but instead that the movie is short, to the point and choppy — and maybe just a little hard to sink your teeth into.
The film’s editing is extremely choppy — slamming audiences from one scene into the next without much warning. A placid piano score by Richard Chester helps accentuate the film’s blunt and unassuming visual style.
Red White & Blue takes a vey simple story and fills it with despicable characters yet refuses to take the easy way out and resort to cheap thrills or gorehound pandering. The film takes its time laying out the characters for audiences to see in every light; like a jeweler showing off his diamonds to potential customers. The story is slow to build but by the time audiences get to the climax, they have a pretty good sense of who everybody is and what their motivations might be. This nuanced character study makes the film’s violent end slightly easier to buy. Characters’ abhorrent actions are seen as clearly part of their personality. While I had a little trouble buying the relationship between Nate and Erica, I could still believe that the two finding comfort in each other was a part of their wheelhouse.
Red White & Blue is a slow build with a powerfully intense payout. You’d be hard pressed to call the movie entertaining or a “must watch” but Red White & Blue is endlessly fascinating — which is more than can be said about most of the “horror” films that attempt a similar story.
The film is available on-demand through your local cable providers as part of IFC Midnight release.
Director: Simon Rumley Notable Cast: Noah Taylor, Amanda Fuller, Marc Senter Writer: Simon Rumley
Robert Saucedo is an avid movie watcher with seriously poor sleeping habits. The Mikey from Life cereal of film fans, Robert will watch just about anything — good, bad or ugly. He has written about film for newspapers, radio and online for the last 10 years. This has taken a toll on his sanity — of that you can be sure. Follow him on Twitter at @robsaucedo2500.