The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"RED WHITE & BLUE"

Four celebrated titles screening at the 2010 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas are available simultaneously on demand via IFC Midnight, and for 30 days afterward. The Aisle Seat is proud to cover these films.

Red White & Blue
Noah Taylor stars in the destined-to-be-controversial Red White & Blue.

In over twenty years of reviewing movies, I've never been as confounded by a picture as I am by Red White & Blue. This is a technically well-made film with undeniably strong, authentic performances. It has the audacity to take you to some truly grim places. At the same time, the movie is also so relentlessly disturbing and unpleasant that I can't, in good conscience, imagine actually recommending that someone watch it, unless for some reason you enjoy being punished by your entertainment. I'm not a wimp, either. I'm a guy who defended Lars Von Trier's Antichrist, and Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects, and Tom Six's The Human Centipede. This one got to me a little too much. Red White & Blue is a serious film, not exploitation at all, and it deserves recognition. Does this sound like I'm contradicting myself? Welcome to this unique viewing experience.

Amanda Fuller stars as Erica, a withdrawn, emotionally distant young woman. Her only companionship comes from the strange men she picks up in bars, indiscriminately sleeps with (in full NC-17 glory), and promptly abandons. To her surprise, she ends up developing a tentative friendship with a new neighbor who moves into her co-op. Nate (Noah Taylor of Shine) is a hardware store worker who claims to have been honorably discharged from Iraq. He's also the one guy who doesn't seem concerned with getting sex from Erica, which may be a big reason why she dares to open herself up a bit.

One evening, Erica encounters aspiring musician named Franki (Marc Senter), who is desperately trying to care for an ailing mother. After some drinks, she allows herself to be gangbanged by Franki and his bandmates. Writer/director Simon Rumley probably wouldn't want me to divulge any more of the plot. To borrow a cue from the film's press notes, there is “a shocking twist of fate” that sends the already irrational Franki into a tailspin, and he thinks Erica is to blame. This leads to some truly horrifying interactions between the two of them plus, eventually, Nate.

For the first hour, you might not even know that Red White & Blue is technically a horror movie. It focuses largely on Erica's self-traumatizing sex life and her burgeoning friendship with Nate. We also see Franki dealing with the struggles in his own life. Rumley handles all this with a staccato style of pacing; with only one or two exceptions, there isn't a scene in the film that lasts longer than sixty seconds. Everything has been pared down to just the bare essentials. We see nothing superfluous, and hear only what the characters absolutely need to say. The film feels not unlike, say, Larry Clark's Kids - a deliberately down-and-dirty examination of an errant lifestyle.

The horror kicks in during the last 40 minutes. And when I say “horror,” I'm not talking about monsters, masked killers, or weird viruses. Red White & Blue is a realistic horror film, where the horror is derived from damaged people making unfathomably awful choices. Nothing here is otherworldly or fantastical; variations on things the characters do have happened in real life. That's what makes it so disturbing. You can't hide behind the “this could never really happen” justification. It's brutal. It's nauseating. It gives you a sick, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.

The title Red White & Blue refers to the fact that there are flags everywhere in this movie, most notably on the back of the jacket worn by Nate. One can reasonably conclude that Rumley is using his story to make some kind of statement. Perhaps some of my reticence about the picture comes from the fact that, while I could feel it trying to say something that justified all the grisly events, I couldn't quite get what that point was. Multiple viewings would doubtlessly enhance one's understanding, but who wants to sit through something so unpleasant more than once?

What I do know is that it's not an easy film to shake off, and for that I give credit to everyone involved. There's no doubt that this is a work with the kind of serious intentions that are all too rare for the genre. It is not run-of-the-mill or generic in any sense. But man, is it ever grueling to watch.

I'm not going to give Red White & Blue a star rating. How many stars do you give something like this? Zero? Four? Two-and-a-half? The movie resists such easy categorization.


Red White & Blue is one of four 2010 Fantastic Fest films available to watch on demand for 30 days, from IFC Midnight. The other titles are High Lane, Heartless and Primal. Past Fantastic Fest entries Doghouse, The Human Centipede and The Good, The Bad, the Weird are also available during this time. Check your cable or satellite provider for details.