With its tale (set to plaintive country guitars) about a man forced to take justice into his own hands, Red exudes a distinct ‘70s Southern-exploitation vibe. In this case, the man compelled to walk tall is Avery Ludlow (Brian Cox), who while fishing with his pooch Red is visited by three teenagers, one of whom, entitled sadist Danny (Noel Fisher), attempts to rob Avery and, upon learning that there’s little cash to be had, shoots Red dead and then laughs about it. As Red was a beloved gift from his late wife, Avery demands that contrition be shown, but when Danny’s wealthy prick father (Tom Sizemore) and the law refuse to show the slightest interest, Avery is driven to deal with matters himself. Directed by both Lucky McKee and, after he was replaced on the project, Trygve Allister Diesen, Red has a quiet deliberateness that allows for empathetic consideration of Avery and his dilemma, a frustrated search for integrity in which stacked-deck circumstances lead the lonely, heartbroken widower to excessive action. Avery’s wife and young boy were murdered years earlier by his older, mentally unstable son, an act of pointless violence akin to that meted out to Red, and Cox ably embodies his character with a soulful misery and confusion over the random cruelty of the world and the absence of any counterbalancing decency. Especially when recounting the tale of his spouse’s demise (nicely dramatized with a slowly zooming close-up of Cox and a measured pan through an empty living room), his performance has a weathered intensity that makes up for Avery’s contrived relationship with a TV news reporter (Kim Dickens) and a couple of crummy white-trash caricatures (courtesy of Robert Englund and Amanda Plummer). During the final act, however, the narrative (based on a Jack Ketchum novel) has Avery behave in desperate ways that don’t, in light of the obvious consequences and his prior comportment, seem completely convincing. Faced with a choice between accepting powerlessness and asserting strength, Avery understandably chooses the latter, but the film’s climax ultimately seems less an example of its protagonist’s irrational fury than of cockeyed storytelling.
- Magnolia Pictures
- 100 min
- Trygve Allister Diesen, Lucky McKee
- Stephen Susco
- Brian Cox, Tom Sizemore, Kim Dickens, Noel Fisher, Kyle Gallner, Shiloh Fernandez, Robert Englund, Amanda Plummer
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