Friday, 12 August 2011

Film Review | Red, White and Blue, dir. Simon Rumley

As you might expect, Red, White & Blue is a film of three parts. A cinematic triptych of sorts, about "three lives... bound together in blood," at least according to the one-sheet. In fact that turns out to be a more literal description of this film's disconnected narrative about connectedness than you might expect, going in.

It's going to be difficult to talk about Red, White & Blue without spoiling the hell out of it, but I'll give it my best shot. Erica (Amanda Fuller) is... a nymphomaniac. In the urban wilderness of Austin, Texas, she trawls the sleaziest clubs and bars she knows, and goes home with the sleaziest man - or men - she can. Once her business with them is concluded, she leaves, never to return; disgusted with herself, one senses.

Erica has a few rules: she'll never sleep with the same guy twice, nor will she bed anyone she halfway respects. So Nate (bit-part player Noah Walsh in an astonishing turn) is out of luck. Or perhaps he's in luck. In any event, Nate doesn't feel particularly lucky. Particularly in light of their burgeoning friendship, the cold shoulder Erica gives him, despite the fact that she'll go home with pretty much anyone else, given half a chance, leaves Nate feeling conflicted about the crazy aimless girl who lives down the hall. More than a little baffled by her behaviour when all signs point towards the beginning of a love that could last.

But Nate's a patient sort of a fellow - an Iraq war veteran the CIA are apparently head-hunting - and eventually, one night, Erica explains herself. Sometime later, one of the hundred-some men she's slept with comes a-calling. That would be Franki. Franki (Mark Senter) has a band, a beautiful ex-girlfriend, a dream, and a mother recovering from cancer.

He's also the weak link in Red, White & Blue. Senter's performance as Franki did not convince me for a single, solitary second: not until the brutal endgame does he seem anything more than a cipher in sheep's clothing... and even then.

Assuredly Senter does not inhabit his character in the way Walsh does his, and Fuller hers. But perhaps the bar they set is simply too high, for on the other hand, their turns are truly remarkable. Erica and Nate are both fundamentally broken people, in whom Walsh and Fuller invest a certain haunting poignancy; they are each to their own irreparably damaged individuals whose respective injuries Rumley guards closely till the moments of his choosing.

And - again, without giving the game away - though I understand the rationale, I found Rumley's abrupt cutaways from moments of revelation and pivotal character development frustrating rather than intriguing, as I expect they were meant to be. One of the first rules of storytelling is that you should not obfuscate vital elements of the narrative you're layering for no other reason than to artificially induce confusion where otherwise there would be none, and Red, White & Blue runs aground of that guidance on every occasion it can, as if to prove a point.

That said, Red, White & Blue does not quite collapse under the weight of its own ostensible cleverness, but if you can read between the lines, you're already one step ahead of where writer/director Simon Rumley wishes you were -- and though I've been careful to avoid spoilers in this review, I'm sure you could make an educated guess as to what's actually going on based on this piece alone. Attentive viewers will thus find a great deal of Red, White & Blue slow going, as likely to frustrate or even annoy you as it is to entertain or challenge you.

Inattentive viewers, meanwhile, will have moved along to something more accommodating to their tastes - Saw VII for instance - well in advance of the final curtain call. So I'm not really sure who Red, White & Blue is for. If not us, and not them, then who?

Its meaning, too, proves elusive. But I'll say this for Simon Rumley's festival fave: as of the time of this writing it's been about a fortnight since I sat down to watch Red, White & Blue, and even now I'm not at all sure what to make of it. Perhaps that's the point.

1 comment:

  1. Nate is actually played by Australian actor, Noah Taylor. I don't think Taylor has ever given a bad performance.