The third film adaptation of
the work of Jack Ketchum--following
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR and
THE LOST--and another home run. RED isn’t a
horror movie per se, but a dark character-based thriller that despite a troubled
production emerges a fully-rounded success.
Filming on RED, starring Brian Cox and Tom Sizemore and scripted by Stephen
Susco (of THE GRUDGE and its sequel), was begun by MAY’S talented Lucky McKee.
He was let go after three weeks for reasons that remain vague (an individual who
worked on the film describes the particulars of McKee’s dismissal as “ugly and
very sad”). The shoot was halted for six months and then started back up with a
new director, the Swedish Trygve Allister Diesen. Another casualty of the
production shut-down was actress Angela Bettis, of MAY and ROMAN fame, who was
replaced by Kim Dickens.
The completed film’s release was in keeping with its production history.
Picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures, it was given a truncated
theatrical bow on a very select number of screens, and put out on DVD in late
2008 with little-to-no fanfare.
Out fishing one day with his dog Red, the sixtyish Avery Ludlow is
confronted with three teenage punks, one of whom wields a rifle. The
rifle-holder demands money, and when Ludlow doesn’t produce any the twerp shoots
and kills Red.
Understandably upset, Ludlow tracks down the boy’s father, a rich shithead
named Michael McCormack. McCormack blows off Ludlow’s claims, but Ludlow
continues pushing the issue for personal reasons--and not just because he misses
As more is revealed about Avery’s lonely existence, we learn that he once
had a family, including an errant teenage son he was unable to control. The kid
eventually snapped, and one night when Avery was out the boy killed his mother
and younger brother. The dispute over Red’s killing mirrors Avery’s troubled
past in several aspects; Avery doesn’t merely want to punish McCormack’s son for
shooting Red, but also save the boy, and so atone for his own parental failures.
The dispute grows increasingly violent, with Ludlow assaulting McCormack’s
son on a busy street and McCormack responding by burning down the hardware store
Ludlow owns. This drives Ludlow to a final desperate act: confronting McCormack
and his family on their own doorstep with Red’s maggot-ridden corpse.
Despite being helmed by two directors, RED is a fully unified and cohesive
piece of work. Lucky McKee and/or Trygve Allister Diesen do frequent and
distracting battle with eye lines, but the film is otherwise quite impressive
from a visual standpoint, with a spare and compact grace that perfectly
compliments Jack Ketchum’s stripped-down prose. It’s an extremely faithful
adaptation of Ketchum’s text, which is a large part of why the film works as
well as it does.
Of course RED also shines because of the strength of its performances.
Brian Cox is one of the most formidable actors on the scene, and provides a
sturdy and compelling anchor. Tom Sizemore is also quite fine as the corrupt
McCormack, and Kim Dickens unexpectedly winning as Ludlow’s love interest (a
role considerably beefed up from that of the novel). The supporting parts,
filled largely with genre staples like Robert Englund, Amanda Plummer and
HELLRAISER’S Ashley Laurence, could frankly be stronger. That, however, doesn’t
change the fact that as a wrenching, hard-nosed thriller RED delivers in spades.
Directors: Lucky McKee,
Trygve Allister Diesen
Producers: Norman M. Dreyfuss, Trygve Allister Deisen
Screenplay: Stephen Susco
(Based on a novel by
Cinematography: Harald Gunnar Paalgard
Editing: Jon Endre Mork
Cast: Brian Cox, Tom Sizemore, Kim Dickens, Robert Englund, Amanda Plummer, Noel
Fisher, Kyle Gallner, Shiloh Fernandez, Richard Riehle, Marcia Bennett, Ashley
Laurence, Lauren Birkell, Keith Butterbaugh