You know those movies you watch and then you sit there, quietly feeling sort of sick afterward? Those movies that should come with a disclaimer about how the viewer may need a shower after they watch it? Movies so hopeless, it takes a very strong person to not walk away from them feeling hopeless themselves? Red, White, and Blue is one of those. Easily the darkest and most twisted film I have ever recommended in this column, I can tell you with all confidence, Red, White, and Blue will not be for everybody. It is brutal and unflinching, and like so many films I tell you all to watch, there are no “good guys”. Instead, this is a microscopic view at a sick world inhabited by sick people. Yet, in them, the scary part is we see glimpses of ourselves and our own broken worlds. Make no mistakes: Red, White, and Blue may be twisted, but it is also wholly unforgettable. Remember kids, nihilism is the theme of the week.
It was late one night, and I was looking around some of the seedier back corners of Netflix. Fingering through the stripper documentaries and B horror, hoping to find some gem I had never heard of. That is when I found Red, White, and Blue. I usually pick my movies based on a perfect storm of elements. I need the poster to grab my attention, I need there to be at least one actor or actress I know, and I need the synopsis to sounds like something I would find interesting. Simple enough, right? What grabbed me about this movie first was the fact that Noah Taylor was in it. Noah Taylor is one of those actors you have seen a million times, but don’t know his name. He has even been added to Game of Thrones recently, but from Vanilla Sky to Almost Famous, the dude has been in just about everything. He is a remarkable actor, and that was enough to get me interested. Expertly written and directed by Simon Rumley, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Yes, that is Noah Taylor. Acclimate yourself now, he is a powerhouse.
What unfolded as I sat and watched this movie was one of the most messed up films I have ever seen. The characters in this movie inhabit a world that is rotted to the core. There is no single ray of sunshine to be found in this film. But I would be lying if I were to tell you it’s not mesmerizing. You know you are peering in on broken people doing broken things, but you cannot bring yourself to look away. Like always, I am getting ahead of myself. This is the part where I will tell you to go watch the movie now. You have all the key elements that make the movie work, and you still have the joy of going at it blind. While there are no spoilers henceforth, there is enough of the story given away that it may take away some of the shock and impact this movie has. You have been warned.
It may be a revenge movie. A broken love story. A drama about the human condition. Honestly, I would call it a tragedy above all else. Red, White, and Blue opens up with a woman named Erica (played with palpable hopelessness by Amanda Fuller) seemingly sleeping around. She is picking up random guys at different bars and banging them the first night. In one case, we see one of the guy’s ask her if she wants to go get drinks or have some food the next day, to which she replies with “what’s the point?” and she leaves. We then find out she has A.I.D.S. Yes, she just infected everybody she slept with in the first ten minutes of this movie. This is your lead, people. Told you, sick stuff.
“Hey, I have A.I.D.S. Wanna bang?”
Right when we find out she has A.I.D.S is when we meet Nate. An Iraq war veteran who may or may not have been discharged because he is dangerously insane. For whatever reason, he takes a shining to Erica. It is not that she is particularly stunning, or that is she is even that sweet to Nate, but something in him clicks about her. We learn early on that Nate is a sick bastard, but also has this odd penchant for wanting to protect Erica. You can see his feelings run a bit deeper than hers, but he always stays somewhat quiet and reserved, for the most part. Well, initially anyway. We truly get the hints more and more as the movie progresses that every single person in this movie is running from something. Be it who they are or something they’ve done, ghosts of past problems haunt all these characters. But Erica and Nate find something in each other, and it is clear for us to see that. An oddly pure love story in a very broken world. Pure love between sickeningly unpure people, perhaps.
I will start being more vague, but about halfway through the movie, we meet Franki. One of the guys she slept with who finds out she gave him A.I.D.S. He also finds out who she is and where she lives. What is crazy here is that we see a glimpse into his life, and as much as he may perpetuate some bad deeds himself, it begins with him being as much a victim as anyone else in this world. Okay, I have told you enough, so it’s trailer time. I would seriously recommend against watching it, though, it is gives away too much in my opinion.
For me to tell you anymore would be unwise of me if I want you to take anything away from the film. I can tell you that if you think the movie sounded bleak so far, that is NOTHING compared to the final twenty minutes of this movie. To say it is relentless would be to undermine it. It is brutal. The kind of visceral film making you didn’t think happened anymore. But it happens in Red, White, and Blue.
Noah Taylor also manages to portray one of the most broken and unforgettable characters I have ever seen on screen. Nate is broken, through and through, and we know this from the first minute we meet him. We just don’t know how broken he is until the final stretch of the film. The reality is, by the end of the movie, we are more broken by his actions than he is. Now that, my friends, is powerful film-making.
I really cannot stress how brutal this scene gets.