Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Brian Cox gives a strong performance in "Red"


Brian Cox, whom I certainly remember from L.I.E. (“Long Island Expressway) turns in a quiet yet compelling performance in "Red", directed by Trygve Allister Diesen and Lucky McKee, from Magnolia Pictures. It should not be confused with “Red” in the trilogy “Three Colors” from Krzysztof Kieslowski.

Cox plays Avery Ludlow, a store proprietor in a river town. Red is the name of his 14 year old mutt dog. He’s also a widower, and at the film’s midpoint he tells the chilling story of what had happened to his family due to a mean son. In this film, his telling the story verbally is more effective than trying to act it out as a backstory. But at the opening, he is fishing with his dog when three local teenagers come up, threaten to rob him, and shoot Red for no reason. They say something like “you should keep more money on you.” There is a senseless meanness. Avery tries to get the cops and the boys fathers to take action, and then starts following the boys around to get justice. A reporter tries to help by offering to air the story without mentioning names (out of fear of libel). Avery starts to be perceived as the stalker, and then become the hunter (starting about with the baseball field scene; we don’t get to see the ball get batted).

The film does bear a little bit of relation to other films about pointless rural ambush crime, like “Deliverance” but this is much more intense as a character study, almost in the style of a (modern) western (it’s supposed to take place in Oregon, but much of it was filmed in Baltimore and Westminster, MD). But it is also a bit like a stageplay in places. The film uses the color "red" strategically in a few places (reminding one of Kieslowski) and even to blank the screen in scene shifts.

The film is likely to be popular in screenwriting classes because of its straightforward structure. Stephen Susco wrote the screenplay, adapted from a novel by Jack Ketchum.

Brian Cox gives an interview on the DVD. He says that studio films indirectly fund independent films, and that he generally prefers independent films that pose more questions of a moral nature than they answer.

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