Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Caught a special "pre-DVD"/on-hotel-cable preview type showing of Red, a new film starring Brian Cox and Tom Sizemore. Cox will always be my favorite Hannibal Lector (he was in Michael Mann's Manhunter) and he's done great work in many films, but this is a rare starring role. And from the log-line, it sounded like another tedious Death Wish style revenge movie. So I wasn't expecting much...

But I was totally sucked in by this movie's elegant and very human story. Cox plays an older widower, war vet, who is confronted by some teenage locals demanding his wallet. When Cox doesn't have enough money on him to make them happy, one of them sadistically shoots and kills Cox's dog "Red."

Change-up number one: Cox doesn't want anybody's head on a platter. He just wants an apology and an admission of guilt from the kids who did him wrong. But the shooter's father is a rich local (played by Sizemore) who quickly gets tired of the old man's insinuations.

In most of these movies, the "revenge" is motivated by pretty simple emotions. In Death Sentence, Kevin Bacon's kid is murdered by a gang banger. Bacon wants to kill the guy. 'Nuff said. But this movie is somewhat more complicated. Nobody wants to kill anyone, at least at first. Cox simply wants "justice," an acknowledgment that he's been wronged. But that's too much for Sizemore and his kid, who decide to retaliate for the continued "harassment."

Couple things make this movie rise above the usual formula. Cox's performance has none of the ticks and swagger usually associated with this sort of "hero." He's a simple guy who has been hurt, and what he wants isn't all that unreasonable. (Sizemore keeps thinking Cox just wants money, but of course it's not that at all.) And at the core of the movie is a delicate and beautifully written scene where Cox explains what made him the sort of man who would face down powerful interests to see the boys who shot his dog face justice. His story is heartbreaking and horrific, and suddenly, unlike so many of these movies, we truly understand why he's pushing this.

It's so rare to come across something vaguely "genre" that works so well, but Red is a real find. Watch for it, I'm sure it'll be out on DVD soon...