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Case Number 15064: Small Claims Court

Buy Red at Amazon


Magnolia Pictures // 2008 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // November 21st, 2008

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker saw Red; then he saw valium, and everything was OK again.

The Charge

They should have told the truth.

The Case

Avery Ludlow (Brian Cox, L.I.E.)—widower and owner of the local general store—takes the day off to go fishing with his beloved dog, Red. In addition to being an all-around great companion, and cute in that mangy way, Red is a link to Avery's late wife. You see, she gave him Red not long before she…well, there's a story there, but no use thinking about that now.

Whilst fishing, Av (as he likes to be called) and Red are accosted by three teenage hooligans, one of whom has a rifle. Snarky and obnoxious, rifle boy ends up shooting Red for no particular reason. Devastated, Av takes the dog home and buries him in the yard. Then he seeks out the families of the boys, expecting that they'll be made to apologize.

Unfortunately, two of the miscreants are the scions of The Richest Family in Town, with a bullheaded dope for a father (Tom Sizemore, Strange Days) and a zombified ex-beauty queen for a mother (Ashley Laurence, Hellbound: Hellraiser II). These are bad, soulless, nouveau riche types, so empty and clueless that Dad actually uses an intercom to talk to Mom when she's right in the next room! Av's folksy plea for accountability doesn't stand a chance. When the obviously sociopathic (yet Dad's favorite!) trigger-happy teen lies and says they weren't even at the fishin' hole, Pops Sizemore buys it—even though the more dimwitted yet sensitive other son (Dad's shame, apparently) can barely keep a straight face to back up the story.

Now, if Av was smart, he'd have just taken these punks and their sneering father to Judge Judy, who would have called the kid a liar and humiliated them in front of 10 million people. Instead, he tries to sue them and enlists a local reporter (Kim Dickens, Deadwood) to expose their dog-killing, mullet-wearing ways. The spoiled-rotten teens do what spoiled-rotten teens always do in these situations: they make life even more hellish for the old gentlemen. The parents, meanwhile, maintain their air of respectability right up until the end, when they morph into the family from The Hills Have Eyes and all sorts of carnage ensues.

Red is a pointless and preposterous revenge tale based on a book by Jack Ketchum, who was also responsible for the pointless and preposterous serial killer tale, The Lost. I've never read one of Ketchum's books, but I hope he's a better writer than these adaptations suggest.

Like The Lost, Red is a ridiculously overwrought film in which nothing makes sense and everything climaxes in some tacked-on, give-the-people-what-they-paid-for bloodletting. The first 80 minutes or say play like a very special episode of Matlock, with geezer courtliness being trampled by cretinous thuggery, and we wait to see how old Av is going to turn them tables. When he shows up with the rotting corpse of the slain mutt and plops it down on his enemies' well-appointed porch, we know all is lost.

Brian Cox is a terrific and underrated actor, and whatever interest Red holds is in seeing his dignified performance as the offended Av. Unfortunately, while he's in pretty much every scene, there just isn't a whole lot for him to do other than politely request justice and then look bewildered when it isn't forthcoming. In a better movie, we'd know that Av was a product of a different time, when integrity mattered and people took responsibility, and the scowling rich would represent the sorry state of the world, in which people point fingers, make excuses, and all but sell their souls to avoid being wrong.

But this is not that movie. In this movie, Av runs the general store in what we assume is a small town (otherwise, it wouldn't have a general store) where everyone knows everyone else, only he doesn't know the richest people around, and they don't know him. Strangely, he also doesn't know the no 'count trash parents of the other boy, played by Robert "Freddy Krueger" Englund and a scenery-hoovering Amanda Plummer.

The only back story we get on ol' Av, actually, is a grisly tale of how his wife and child left this mortal coil a decade before, a story so over-the-top dreadful that surely the reporter to whom he relates it would have known about it. Of course, people who endure such tragedies as he describes are usually branded by it, especially in a small town, and one might think that this would somehow inform what is happening now…but then, we're getting back to that whole "better movie" territory.

There's not much to the disc: acceptable picture and audio, an interview with Cox and deleted scenes as extras. There's not much to the movie, so we'll have to call this one a wash.

Maybe fans of Jack Ketchum will get something out of this. For me, Red, like the evil pet-slaying, upper-middle-class bumpkins, is guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Spanish
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Drama
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Interview with Brian Cox
• Deleted Scenes


• IMDb

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