WHITE AND BLUE
/ Blu-ray. Trinity X.
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
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.
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.
IT NOW (UK)
IT NOW (USA)