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Red begins early in the morning. So early, it’s really still late the previous night. A man awakes with a start, as if from a nightmare, seconds before his alarm sounds. He quickly readies himself and exits his spartan single-room apartment. Elsewhere, a couple stagger to their hotel room. The woman is having to prop her man up, and he collapses on the bed as soon as he arrives at it. Outside the hotel, the man from the spartan apartment looks up at the hotel room, takes a belt of liquor from a flask, and makes his way up there, hold-all in hand. What’s happening here?
Well, the woman is Mia (Francesca Fowler), a prostitute with instructions to bring men up to this room, having plied them with spiked booze first. The unconscious gentleman on the bed is her latest client/victim. The man with the hold-all making his way up to the room is Niklas, a surgeon who listens to Beethoven while he removes the victim’s organs. Welcome to the “red” market, the illicit netherworld of illegal organ harvesting. Niklas hates what he does and hates himself for doing it, but he’s in thrall to Ed (Dervla Kirwan), the terrifying red market kingpin who won’t release Niklas from the life in which he’s been ensnared. One night, Ed arrives with a job too far. Can Niklas go through with it? Can he refuse? Dare he refuse?
The German-born Serbian star of Red, Branko Tomovic, has some small credits in some big productions such as The Bourne Ultimatum (Greengrass, 2007) and Fury (Ayer, 2014). He has a great Eastern-European face making him the sort of character actor coveted by such TV juggernauts as Showtime’s Homeland and Fox’s 24. Indeed, Mr. Tomovic has enjoyed a small role in the former but it is from the latter where folk may well recognise him, from his time spent on the excellent 24: Live Another Day (2014) as Belcheck, a Serbian contract killer and one of Jack Bauer’s few allies. Here, he gives a wonderfully spiky, edge-of-panic performance, imbuing his character with an overage of guilt married to a lack of rest. He is assisted magnificently in these endeavours by Francesca Fowler (who starred alongside Mr. Tomovic on Steve Stone’s feature Schism) as prostitute/lure Mia and by Dervla Kirwan, the Dubliner adopted as a national treasure in the UK for her many beloved TV roles (particularly the BBC smash hits of the 1990s Ballykissangel and Goodnight Sweetheart) who gives a short but startlingly vicious performance here as crime boss Ed, a truly horrific character.
Red is also Mr. Tomovic’s directorial debut (as well as having co-written it with newcomer Paul D Clancy) so it’s a real tour de force from him, and he successfully injects as much tension from behind the camera as he projects in front of it.