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RED, WHITE AND BLUE
DVD / Blu-ray. Trinity X.

Red White and BlueSimon Rumley’s Red White and Blue has been gaining breathless reviews for the last year, and so has a lot of baggage as it finally emerges in the UK. It’s to the film’s credit, then, that it more than lives up to weighty expectations and is almost as good as it it thinks it is.

This is a slowly building tale of revenge and retribution that carefully layers its intermingling stories until the reach boiling point in the explosive finale. The film is based around three characters. Abuse victim Erica (Amanda Fuller) is an aimless drifter who rejects friendship and affection, instead drifting from sexual partner to sexual partner, unwilling to sleep with anyone more than once and – in a throwaway moment that later becomes significant – refusing to use condoms. Her neighbour Nate (Noah Taylor) is another damaged soul, who sees something in Erica – early on, he tells a story about how he lovingly looked after a pet kitten while abusing all the other animals he came across, and he seems to have this same protectionist ideal about Erica, with whom he forms a curious, platonic relationship. And then there is Franki (Marc Senter), would-be rock star whose career is on the up even as his life falls apart, with his mother dying of cancer and his relationship with his girlfriend on the rocks. When he and his bandmates hook up with Erica for a one-night stand, the results change the course of all three protagonists lives, with a series of mistakes that end up costing everyone dearly.

The film tells these stories in a quiet, steady way, allowing events to slowly develop. There’s little dialogue throughout – the first ten minutes or so are virtually silent, and most information is given is brief, to-the-point statements. This approach is matched in the editing, with the film – particularly in the first half – being a series of tight, short scenes that feel like snapshots of the characters’ lives. And Rumley is careful to create multi-faceted characters, people who seem real, while at the same time building your expectations (particularly with Nate, who is misleadingly set up as the traditional predatory serial killer when we first see him) and then pulling the rug from under you.

Red White and BlueThis is a raw film in many senses. The characters seem worn down, and beaten by life – there’s no Hollywood glamour here, as the camera picks up their physical flaws and the story exposes their emotional weaknesses. There are no real heroes or villains – just people who manage to screw up their lives, and the lives of others. Taylor and Fuller are extraordinary as people who probably don’t deserve our sympathy, but get it nevertheless. Senter has a harder time – his character is too weak and his performance too unconvincing to really work (and his band are rubbish). It's probably not the actor's fault - his character is simply too uninteresting, and his struggles too obvious, for us to really connect with. He’s the one thing that stops the film from being a masterpiece.

The violent finale is extraordinarily brutal, though never gratuitous – the violence is mostly off-screen or filmed so close-up that it becomes a meaningless blur. But the very fact that we know what is happening – and there are a couple of sadistic moments that will take your breath away – is enough. You don’t need anything more.

Ultimately, Red White and Blue is a story about America – the flag is never far from view – and the ultimate pointlessness of revenge, given that every act of vengeance simply creates more victims and more angry people who want, in turn, to take their revenge. As an indictment of everything from the ‘eye for an eye’ nature of US justice to the global conflicts that America has led throughout the last decade, it’s very effective, while at the same time avoiding bashing you over the head with ‘the message’.

Intense, emotional, savage and haunting, Red White and Blue is an extraordinary film.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

BUY IT NOW (USA)

 

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