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RED

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. 

The Package 
     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.

The Story 
     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 Red.
     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. 

The Direction 
     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.  


Vital Statistics 

RED
Magnolia Pictures 

Directors: Lucky McKee, Trygve Allister Diesen
Producers: Norman M. Dreyfuss, Trygve Allister Deisen
Screenplay: Stephen Susco
(Based on a novel by Jack Ketchum)
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
 


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