Judge Paul Pritchard is red, white, and blue da ba dee da ba di.
"Would you prefer to stay alive without your mommy and daddy, or die with them?"
Erica (Amanda Fuller) spends her nights trawling the bars and clubs of Austin, Texas, looking to hook up with anyone who shows an interest in her. Her long history of one-night stands is catalogued in a photo album she keeps as a memento of her past conquests. Erica's world changes when she meets Nate (Noah Taylor, Almost Famous). Unlike the other men she meets, Nate appears to see something more in Erica than just an easy lay, and the two slowly form a friendship. However, when Franki (Marc Senter) shows up with links to Erica's past, tragedy is not far away.
Even during its silent opening, viewers will quickly pick up on the sense of unease that permeates from Red White & Blue. It is there in the sleazy, and totally non-erotic sexual liaisons Erica gets herself into, and it is there in the eyes of Nate, Erica's would-be savior.
Writer/Director Simon Rumley breaks his film down into three distinct parts; the first of which focuses on Erica and Nate. The relationship the two shares, which at Erica's request is completely non-sexual, has the potential to be sweet; I'm sure many filmmakers would take this veteran of the war in Iraq and woman of loose morals and turn it into an uplifting drama. Instead, in Rumley's hands, it feels like a friendship born of desperation, and doomed to end in tragedy. Both need each other more than they want each other, with Nate clearly having mixed thoughts regarding Erica's liberal attitude towards sex. Erica, who had previously closed herself off from the rest of humanity—excepting her illicit trysts—sees Nate as her last chance at some kind of normality, seeking solace rather than excitement in his bed. Having been numb to everything that surrounds her, Erica suddenly finds herself able to feel again thanks to Nate's protectiveness. In return, Nate finds having Erica to care about dilutes his more sociopath-like tendencies. The second part of the film is interested in Franki, who we had previously met during his participation in a four-way with Erica during the film's opening act. We learn that Franki's mother is suffering from cancer, and see how Franki helps care for her. It is also during this sequence that the film reveals the tie that binds these three characters. From thereon in, Red White & Blue follows the climactic events as the three leads are drawn to each other by the revelation.
If Red White & Blue is a character study, it's one which intrudes no more than it needs to. We learn all that we need to about each of the three leads within the first few minutes of meeting them for the first time; everything else merely serves to confirm beyond doubt our initial suspicions. While this leaves the film containing little mystery—beyond what it is that connects them—it ensures the viewer is kept on the edge of their seat as we anticipate the increasingly inevitable explosion of violence that will surely take place. Red White & Blue is in no rush to get to that point, preferring instead to move all its pieces into place, teasing the audience as it does so before finally exposing its rotten core.
Comparisons to Takashi Miike's Audition are particularly apt, as ultimately your view on Red White & Blue will come down to how accepting you are of the events that take place during the final act. Is it effective? Oh, yes. It's sudden, explosive, and very, very disturbing. Does it sit right and ring true? That's open to debate. It's hard to shake the feeling that none of the three leads has any say in their destinies, that their futures have already been written. Of course, this is true, but Simon Rumley's screenplay ensures that there is enough motivation—or in the case of Nate, a clear enough sense of a damaged psyche—that the climactic events don't feel forced. Still, only the most desensitized viewer will have time to question any of this as the brutality of the piece takes over. To say Red White & Blue is unpleasant viewing is to put it mildly. The violence, pah, it's mere blood and guts; the tone, however, is pitch black and makes for a desperately tense finale. What makes the film more unnerving than most is how the most horrific acts are seen to take place in the leafy suburbs, and involve seemingly normal people who—in some cases through no fault of their own—are dragged into this nightmare.
Rumley's screenplay is short on dialogue, but each interaction is meaningful and has a natural flow. The scenes that Erica and Nate share are amongst the films more powerful, as the two form their unlikely friendship. A special mention should also be made regarding Franki's mother, Ellie (Sally Jackson). In many ways, Ellie is the most tragic figure in the film, and it literally rips your guts out how her fate is revealed. As a director, Rumley shows an impressive amount of range, as his film straddles multiple genres, taking in drama, revenge, and, ultimately, horror, without ever feeling overloaded or uneven. Rumley is never in a rush to get to the next scene, often happy to leave the camera rolling on apparently lesser moments that in truth offer small but important insights into his characters.
The DVD includes a short behind-the-scenes featurette, which contains interviews with members of the cast and crew. It's interesting to note how even those involved in the film were initially taken aback by the violence brought on in the final act, but were ultimately won over by Rumley's vision. Rumley joins up with producer Bob Portal for an insightful commentary track that acts as a good companion to the making of. Also included are a selection of bloopers and deleted scenes. The film has a very raw and gritty look to it, which is reflected in the DVD transfer. The picture is generally quite sharp, and detail levels good. There is noticeable grain, especially in darker scenes, and a slightly muted color palette. The 5.1 soundtrack offers a minimal mix, but is clear throughout.
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