**This review first appeared on HeyUGuys following the screening of the film at the Fantasia Festival but in light of the recent FrightFest screening we are reposting it in case you missed it the first time.**
UK writer/director Simon Rumley impressed me greatly with his 2006 film The Living and the Dead and I therefore had reasonably high expectations walking into the FanTasia screening of his latest film, Red White & Blue. My expectations were not only justified but they were not high enough. Red White & Blue is phenomenal and a must see film of 2010.
Set in Austin, Texas the film first introduces us to Erica (Amanda Fuller), a seriously emotionally damaged person, who appears to be sleeping her way through every male she meets in Austin bars and her new workplace. She finds the job in said workplace thanks to her new neighbour Nate (Noah Taylor) who claims to have a semi-mysterious past working for the US military and clearly harbours disturbing predilections towards violence, heavily hinted at when he talks about his childhood in a scene that intriguingly foreshadows a lot of the events in the film’s final act. The third character that makes up the central protagonists is Franki (Marc Senter), a struggling musician who picks up Erica (although perhaps it’s actually the other way around) in a bar and and spends the night with her and his two band mates.
The first third of the film is distinctly Erica’s story and it is striking that the whole film could have hung on just the minimal plot developments here, aided by Amanda Fuller’s truly stunning performance. Fuller was probably FanTasia’s greatest revelation for me with her brave and impressive performance totally blowing me away. Also crucial to the success of these early sequences is Rumley’s early-Linklater approach to the direction. Slacker is a film that instantly comes to mind in the film’s first thirty minutes with even the shot composition sharing distinct similarities. The film as a whole also bears obvious comparison to the work of Peckinpah and Larry Clark but Rumley completely transcends these inspirations and the film is uniquely his.
After the introduction of Erica and Nate the film then takes a complete turn and switches to follow Franki’s narrative arc. Franki’s mother is dying of cancer and he looks after her relatively alone, echoing Rumley’s The Living and the Dead, whilst trying to get his band off the ground. It is hard to say too much about this section or the final act without giving away too much (the film is aided by not knowing too much but I am sure it is just as good even with prior knowledge) but suffice to say things do not go well for Franki. The final act is then when we see the film turn more towards horror and Rumley plays with the conventions of vengeance in films (he cited Korean Cinema as one of his many inspirations – Chan-park Wook perhaps) and also the rape-revenge film. At the core of Red White & Blue though is a tragic and affecting love story that has genuine emotional depth.
The violence and bloodshed in the final act feels entirely narratively justified (I must stress I don’t mean morally justified) by the earlier scenes and the emotional investment that Rumley orchestrates gives the film a punch to the gut, an impact I so rarely feel in contemporary cinema but something that I also experienced in The Living and the Dead in a scene that almost made me want to stop the film.
Shot in just 18 days over 27 locations on the Red digital camera by Milton Kam there is an effective use of intimate natural lighting and the film looks absolutely stunning. In addition to the lighting and camera movements the aforementioned composition is also incredibly important in setting the tone and upsetting the mood in key sequences. The editing and direction are almost perfectly economical and even the occasional editing flourish works well within the narrative, only adding to the economy of not telling the audience how to think or feel but simply presenting the story effectively.
Although it is perhaps slightly too over-enthusiastic at times I also loved the score for the film and the recurring piano motifs (I believe these were created by Ridhard Chester) are sublime, bringing to mind John Cage’s incredible prepared piano work.
It is probably quite clear that I fell in love with this film and it is a film I cannot recommend enough. Red White & Blue is emotionally engaging, visually stunning and more arresting with each passing minute.