Monday, April 11, 2011
Red, White, and Blue (2010)
After being in the SXSW festival last year this film got some notice, and some really good reviews. After hearing about it I was interested and I finally got a chance to see it this week-end, and I have to say that the first third of the movie I really enjoyed, but after that for me the film falls apart. The film is about Erica a young woman living in Austin who is promiscuous, she picks up men and dumps them immediately after having sex, never allowing herself to get too close to anyone. This changes when she gets better acquainted with her neighbor who has just moved in. His name is Nate and he is a quiet man, slightly creepy, but he persists in being kind to her, and he wins her affection in a non-sexual way. Now this happens all within the first twenty to thirty minutes of the movie, and then we are introduced to other characters who become the movies motivational piece for the violent ending.
Like I said before the first third of this film is really good. There is not much dialogue, but we get what the filmmaker is trying to say. Erica is damaged goods. Without her saying or explaining it we know somethings wrong with Erica. we also know that Nate is damaged goods also, but in a far more sinister way. I think the filmmaker was trying to cause attention to Nate and Erica, and maybe inferring that he may be a serial killer scoping out his next prey, but I didn't get that. What I got was an odd relationship forming that seemed to be interesting, and right when you have me hooked you introduce other characters and don't go back to Nate and Erica for a very, very long time. I know those characters have a link to Erica because we see them having sex with her, but when they appear again I really wanted to go back to Nate and Erica.
Erica is played by Amanda Fuller and Nate is played by Noah Taylor. Their performances are strong, and very well done. Taylor has a look that works, and it is in this look that makes his performance really work. Fuller's performance is that of women who is damaged goods who you want to save. There is quite a bit of nudity in the film, and in the end the film becomes violent. Yet I felt that everything was forced. Plot points in the film don't make sense. The character that the filmmaker introduces as Franki seems wrong for the part. I didn't buy him as the character, and maybe that's why it falls apart for me, or maybe I was so hung up on Nate and Erica that I found Franki's introduction a nuisance.
Simon Rumley is the director of the film, and he does a competent job, but some of the shots seemed underexposed, and dark. I've heard of ambient lighting, but a little more light would have helped. Some shots seem to be soft due to the fact that the cinematographer was riding the lens wide open thereby loosing a lot of depth of field. Maybe I'm technically nit-picking here, but it did cause me to notice it, and it took me out of the film. I understand low light cinematography, but I really think the production team should have watched the film "Blood Simple" by Joel & Ethan Coen to get some good pointers on atmosphere, and lighting. That's one film where the creators actually made a great piece of cinema.
I also didn't like the pacing of the film, and that's maybe because of the earlier problem of the director cutting to new characters, and never getting back to the original characters. But the film seemed to drag, and even at the end the violence seems to go on and on. There is no crescendo, and no finale. The film is populated with music from what I assume are local bands down in Austin. It does nothing for me, and even when the director uses his own music it's annoying more so then it is useful. If you want a good example of how to create a chaotic feel to the violence watch the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Tobe Hooper does a magnificent job creating terror and the insanity of violence within the film. The film is in the MOMA for a reason, so more filmmakers should look at it, and study it.
If you want to see a still disturbing film in the same genre go watch "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" directed by John McNaughton. The film is still very disturbing, yet it is put together far more superior then "Red, White, & Blue.
In the end there are films that are way better then this one, so I can't recommend this film. People have said that this is a horror film, but I can't really classify it as that. Maybe its a step above films that are labeled "torture porn", but I really don't think so. I myself hate the genre (torture porn), and wish it a speedy demise and even though the violence happens at the end of the film all that proceeds the violence doesn't redeem the film. You can do a lot better.