Trygve Allister Diesen and Lucky McKee for Magnolia Pictures.

Red (2008, Trygve Allister Diesen and Lucky McKee)

Red‘s a really safe movie. I’ve seen Noel Fisher play a young creep multiple times on television–just a few weeks ago even–and I’ve seen Kyle Gallner play the sensitive kid who hangs out with the creep. Twice for him. And casting Brian Cox as a loner who loses his dog and relentlessly pursues justice… well, it’s Brian Cox. It’s the kind of thing Cox has been doing for years. He’s really good, but he’s really good because he’s Brian Cox, not because the role has much depth to it.

The script’s very confused when it comes to that depth. Cox has a long, devastating back story. It comes out in various scenes with Cox reluctantly revealing himself to Kim Dickens. But the film starts so fast–the third scene is the big one, Fisher killing Cox’s dog–it makes all that eventual fill-in unnecessary. Worse, for a film with an utterly predictable conclusion, Red manages not to tie any of Cox’s character’s strings together. Sure, if his back story weren’t so tragic and so terrible, it’d be natural not to have the pieces together, but the film makes such a point about them. It seems to be an oversight.

The film’s actually pretty hard to watch. It’s one of those “rich people with influence escape justice” pictures, but with the crime here (and Cox’s good performance) so cruel and senseless, it’s a constantly unpleasant experience. Directors Diesen and McKee–there are no hints at who directed what or why the film needed two directors, it hardly appears to be a difficult prospect–take the unpleasantness one step further with some of the conversation pieces. Cox’s house is horrifyingly decorated, like the wall paper is supposed to make the viewer’s stomach turn, and the scenes with he and Dickens set there are difficult to endure.

The direction does have some high points. It feels very British at times, like a Masterpiece Theatre entry sensationalized and set in America. I think Diesen’s Norwegian, which is–cinematically speaking–close enough.

While Dickens has the film’s second or third biggest role, she frequently disappears and it always seems like she’s off in a better movie. It’s not really her fault, it’s the script. The script, at the end, both acknowledges her muted attraction to Cox… and his fear of aging (which had never been brought up before). The oversights mount up, especially as the film barrels through the third act, knocking down false ending after false ending.

The rest of the supporting cast is excellent–particularly Richard Riehle and Robert Englund. Tom Sizemore’s got a decent-sized role, but his character makes absolutely no sense after his first scene. Sizemore’s hair is dyed blonde, which looks bad, but he’s got a solid energy to him when he needs it. His writing isn’t good.

If one were to think about Red too long, the entire film would collapse. Not because of the Cox stuff, though. Cox is golden here, except he’s perfectly safe. There’s no risk and, subsequently, no reward.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Trygve Allister Diesen and Lucky McKee; screenplay by Stephen Susco, based on a novel by Jack Ketchum; director of photography, Harald Gunnar Paalgard; edited by Jon Endre Mørk; music by Søren Hyldgaard; production designers, Leslie Keel and Tiffany Zappulla; produced by Steve Blair, Diesen and Norman Dreyfuss; released by Magnolia Pictures.

Starring Brian Cox (Avery Ludlow), Kim Dickens (Carrie Donnel), Noel Fisher (Danny), Tom Sizemore (Michael McCormack), Kyle Gallner (Harold), Shiloh Fernandez (Pete Doust), Richard Riehle (Sam Berry), Amanda Plummer (Mrs. Doust) and Robert Englund (Willie Doust).

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