For Your Consideration – Red (2008)

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC For Your Consideration - Red (2008)

I’ve been writing for brwc for a couple of months now, and it’s not wasted on me how fantastic an opportunity this is for an opinionated fuck like me to pitch in my 2 cents (pence doesn’t feel right) on some good, and hopefully lesser known, films. In these features, I hope to recommend some films that may have slipped you by, but by no means will these all (if any) be masterpieces. They will hopefully be interesting or entertaining to at least some of you, and with a whole wide web of sites telling you the Top 5 Best & Worst whatevers, I would like to just shine a light on some decent films that I feel deserve more attention. I call this For Your Consideration.

Now, I will descend into why I wanted to bring Red in particular to your attention, in a way that implies that my opinion matters.

Before I begin, I have not read the Jack Ketchum novel on which the film I based so I can’t comment on how much of the film comes from the book.



While sharing the name of the blockbuster made two years later, you won’t find any geriaction here. Don’t be fooled by the “From The Screenwriter of The Grudge” poster brag either. Instead you’ll find the story of Avery Ludlow (Brian Cox), a widowed country gentlemen whose dog, the eponymous Red, is killed by local youths. He seeks out satisfaction, redemption and justice from the local entrepreneur (Tom Sizemore), his son’s and their friend (Noel Fisher, Kyle Gallner and Shiloh Fernandez). After all legal and honourable routes have been closed to Avery, what lengths will have a good man have to go to for justice?

Solid premise, right? However, the film only amounts to good instead of great. One reason for this could be that during production, original director McKee was replaced by Trygve Allister Diesen due to what one can speculate democratically as “creative differences” (I’m not sure how pleasant the parting was when one of the parties make a grim film like The Woman, another Ketchum creation, to say “fuck you” afterwards).

I’ve no idea what has been kept from McKee’s time on the shoot and what is pure Diesen (which is definitely in the pros column) but I would have loved to have seen McKee’s vision of this story. The themes of monstrous humanity are a clear bridge to his other films, but this sadly remains a half in McKee’s canon.

There are certainly stellar performances all round from a great cast including Cox, Sizemore, Robert Englund and Amanda Plummer to name but a few. While everyone brings their A-game, Cox especially lends a real gravity to the situation and warmth to his character. He brings the sense of place and depth in his portrayal of Avery Ludlow that Jeff Nichols achieves in his settings. Avery is a man of honour and character, as at home in the woods as he is behind the counter of his store. the idealised American male of the old west.

Red is partly a love letter to man’s best friend and it does so by avoiding the Marley & Me approach of humanising the dog and instead humanising the human. That dog was everything to Avery, hence his name being the title, and to see him hold him so tenderly in a towel is one of the most heart breaking scenes Cox has pulled off in while. Avery isn’t looking for revenge because it was his dog, but because Red meant so much to him.

It is easy to see Red as about sadistic youths attacking the old like Harry Brown. Sure, it adheres to the classic “messed with the wrong man” motif that is easy to create and easy to sell, but it adds something to it, and that is the main reason I feel you should see Red; it’s moral complexity.

Red clearly positions itself in opposition to revenge in favour of justice in extreme circumstances. Avery looks to do things the right way and act respectably in the face of moral apathy. This isn’t Charles Bronson with a machine gun in an alley way. This isn’t about the power of violence against amorality. It knows that these kinds of situations are rarely as black and white as our collective conscience would like and as many films show them to be. It’s not about heroes and villians, but of actions and consequences. This doesn’t mean, however, that it is a dry attempt to capture some reality like an attempt to revive neo-realism. Red is engrained with Hollywood B-movie techniques up front with an independent tone in it’s underlying themes, making for a deeper watch than might be expected from afar.

While not perfect, Red is a real treat in a sea of formulaic flicks and I highly recommend you give it a chance. Before you go off to see if you can stream it somewhere (for shame!), just remember; think Way of the Gun, not Death Wish.


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