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Red White and Blue

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Red White and Blue

Directed by Simon Rumley

File Red White and Blue under truly great movies that you have no desire whatsoever to be subjected to again. That said, watch it. Most slasher-revenge-type movies can barely aspire to this kind of nuance, or this kind of dread. When that final scene rolls around, when the ostensible bad guy is heading out of town and nothing is OK for anyone, you might take your body temperature and not be terribly surprised to find that it’s dropped significantly because some vital part of you has turned into a block of ice. Gah.

That bad guy is Nate (Noah Taylor), an Iraq War vet who has returned to his hometown to more or less get his head together after being discharged from the Army, where, we learn, he was an interrogator. Note that nothing is being given away here in calling him the “bad guy”: You learn rather quickly that Nate’s childhood hobby was torturing small animals. His only friend is Erica (Amanda Fuller), a young woman who compulsively engages in one-night stands with local men and seems as emotionally dead as a cinder block. One of those local men is Franki (Marc Senter), a young wannabe rock star who helps his mother along in her cancer treatment and has his own sort of loose screw.

It takes Red a good hour to turn into a gaping, sucking black hole of revenge involving a certain very modern disease and learning all about the different forms that loose screws can take. Indeed, people die in agonizing, inventive ways. And it comes on suddenly, the death, and unrelentingly after a languid, woozy first half, recalling the great undersung Australian slasher flick Wolf Creek (replace dreamy shots of the outback for the suburbs of Austin, Texas), one act of violence building on the prior. You just know that something awful is building in the air and you don’t know how it’s going to transpire or even from where exactly, but when it happens, that naturalness makes the violence all the more unsettling.

As for that violence, director Simon Rumley has a simply masterful way. Torture porn this is not. A great deal of the worst stuff takes place off-screen—making the onscreen stuff that much sharper—and notice here and there sound dropping out of the movie entirely, to be replaced by an uneasy piano line. The net result is scenes that feel rather matter-of-fact: horror as a force of gravity. Red, White, and Blue suffers from some occasionally not-so-great acting and clunky bits of dialogue, but by the time the movie’s final act thunders in, you could give a shit less. In sum, not for the faint of heart—in the best way possible.

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