Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): **
Simon Rumley's Red White & Blue is a half-step up from this writer/director's earlier The Living and the Dead, a slight tale about a very odd dysfunctional family which the filmmaker buried under a bundle of repetitive visual tics and back-and-forth time trips. Rumley and his well-cast lead actor offer some interesting situations and characterization before the film's raison d'etre – a raft of unpleasant tortures/murders – begins. From what I can gather, Rumley's themes encompass everything from America's sex/drug/rock-and-roll mentality to its current mid-east wars, general state of health (pretty sick) and employment opportunities.
Once again, Rumley's stylistic habits (choppy editing among them) succeed only in making the film less realistic, while, in certain places, unnecessary visual effects seem to be compensating for low-level acting in some of the lesser roles. Whatever the film may be trying to say (from the importance of losing one's parent to the contracting of AIDS) finally gets lost in its inexcusable finale of ultra-violence. It's one thing to have a major character or two who are unhinged, but when nearly everyone in your film goes off the deep end, it can be difficult to keep your audience from giggling or rolling eyes.
But Rumley is fortunate to have Noah Taylor (an Australian actor who could easily corner the market on whacko roles) as his lead. Taylor (Shine; Almost Famous) is always good, though here he's saddled with a major hurdle, which he bounces over handily: Scrawny as a dry leaf, he nonetheless manages to be scary as hell. Amanda Fuller, as the young girl who connects all the movie's dots, is less successful, though it's probably not her fault. Rumley saddles her character with a hunk of exposition (explaining her nympho behavior) that would choke a horse: this is not the best way to treat your lead actress. Exposition regarding her past history that is probably unnecessary to begin with; if used at all, it should be handled with subtlety. Marc Senter, an appealing-looking actor who seems a bit above his abilities here, tackles the third lead.
Those dots I mentioned -- death, AIDS, sexual compulsions, Iraq vets and on and on -- are both what give the film its interest and make it, finally, unworkable. Like a multi-car smash-up, it's all too much. When the movie at last goes over the top with its big-time slasher finale, you realize with a sigh and a shrug that this, and only this, is what Rumley was interested in all along.
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