Red White & Blue (2010)
By: Rip on February 1, 2011  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Director: Simon Rumley
Stars: Noah Taylor, Amanda Fuller, Marc Senter, Sally Jackson
Screnplay: Simon Rumley
Country: UK / USA
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Inhabiting a seedy world of bars and motels by night in Austin, Texas, damaged free spirit Erica (Amanda Fuller) would be the type of girl that some would call, the 'town tart'. Though indeed she might be promiscuous, she has her own code in that she'll never sleep with the same guy twice and refuses to permit any of her one-night-stands to use a condom. This includes struggling rock musician Franki (Marc Senter) and his three band mates, whom we see bedding Erica in a spontaneous threesome at the opening moments of Red White And Blue. Later, we see Erica settling down in to a job at a hardware outlet where she recognizes fellow worker, Nate (Noah Taylor), whom she has briefly met before living in the same apartment block as herself. Nate is a lonely and somewhat intense Iraq war veteran who, despite his seemingly deluded stories about working for the CIA, eventually wins the trust of the emotionally detached Erica. Nate is the only man Erica has met who doesn't immediately try to bed her, and after he takes a hammer to a fellow worker who harasses her, an intimacy begins between the unlikely couple. Unfortunately, their developing relationship is shattered when a secret Erica has been harboring comes back to haunt her, which then results in her kidnapping. This in turn starts a chain of horrific events that spiral so far out of control, that only a grim conclusion seems on the horizon.

British director Simon Rumley has given us a startlingly powerful and quietly disturbing film in Red White And Blue. At first, this UK/USA co-production seems an exercise in social commentary and dark psychological insight, but it gradually evolves in to full blown visceral brutality that continues to haunt long after the end credits have rolled. The film has three parts and three protagonists, with each part devoted to one character at a time and eventually cutting back and forth to each them as their lives collide. None of these three lead characters are purely good or bad; they are simply human and the audience can easily identify with them, even when they're doing bad things. And that is testament to the writing and performances in this remarkable, award winning independent feature. Noah Taylor is astonishingly good as Nate, exhibiting both tenderness and a constant air of threatening, imminent danger. Taylor is always great, but I would say that this could be the best thing I've seen him do, next to his work in something like Shin or his amazing turn as a young Adolf Hitler in the vastly underrated, Max. He also pulls off an impeccable Texan accent. Amanda Fuller, in an extremely difficult role, excels as the tragic Erica. Apparently director Rumley was told by agents that he wouldn't find a girl willing to take off her clothes for very little money and who can act. Fuller does both with gusto, and whilst her character is initially not likeable at all, Fuller ends up breaking our hearts with her naturalistic, beautifully nuanced performance. The third pivotal character here is Franki, the frontman for a laughably mediocre rock group, and he is played by Marc Senter, whom some may recall for his terrific turn in the film adaptation of Jack Ketchum's novel, The Lost. Whilst Franki is at first an irritating dweeb with his whiny voice, out-of-date perm and headband, we slowly realize that he too has a genuinely good heart, especially in scenes where we see him caring for his cancer-stricken mother. Marc Senter is required to run the gamut of emotions here and he brings it all off with great aplomb.

Director Simon Rumley has made a total of five feature films now, and whilst I've personally not seen his other works, I'm certainly very keen to now, given the strength of Red White And Blue. Three quarters of this film could come across as melodrama in the hands of a lesser director, but Rumley wisely downplays proceedings and slowly peels back the layers of each character, eventually revealing the inner life of these people whom we initially find hard to empathize with, and ultimately, gaining our sympathies for them. He also has a strong handle on directing violence, and when it comes, it explodes in a welter of gut-wrenching brutality that even hardened gore-hounds will find themselves wincing at. The film is also beautifully shot (on location in Austin, Texas), framed in 2:35 widescreen, and edited in a way that shifts back and forth in time, keeping the audience guessing as to what will happen next. The excellent soundtrack is worthy of a mention too and is notable for its uncomfortable stretches of silence, punctuated by the occasional song, one of which is written by Noah Taylor himself. I also particularly enjoyed the use of soft, melancholic music during the scenes of intense carnage.

Red White And Blue has been screening at various film festivals around the world of late, including the recent SUFF and Hello Darkness festivals right here in Australia. It has received much acclaim and, in my view, deservedly so. Highlighted by an unforgettable performance from Noah Taylor, it is a unique, terrifying portrait of brutality and a sensitive character study all at once, and one that I was haunted by for days afterward. Accent will be releasing it here on R4 DVD come March 18, so if you're up for a revenge/horror film with substance, I suggest a purchase, if not a rental at least.

Highly recommended.
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