Thursday, May 18, 2023

Pliers and a Blowtorch

Film: Red White & Blue
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

In the movie world, there are two types of revenge pictures. The most common variety is the sort of 1980s heart of Schwarzeneggar’s career. Films like Commando, Raw Deal and even The Running Man are the staple of action films, the sort of standard burger and fries of movies. Your hero is a big, muscley dude, former (or current) military, who gets wronged by someone and goes on a quest to kill off the bad guys one by one. You get pithy one-liners, and at the end, the bad guys are gone and all is right with the world. Rarer are films like Last House on the Left, where the revenge is taken but the resolution is just the emptiness of revenge being taken, but loss still being felt. And then you get Red White & Blue, a film that combines the retributive aspects of the first type with the bleak nihilism of the second.

It should also be said that Red White & Blue is a film that feels like two films in one. This is not because there are two parallel stories for the first hour or so. This is because when we get to the end of the second act and the beginning of the third, this movie is going to take a very hard left turn. There are clear and obvious parallels to Audition. Red White & Blue starts out much like a tragic romance and ends as an exploration of horror and terrible revenge.

In one of our two plots, we have the story of Erica (Amanda Fuller), a sort of sex-addicted woman who spends her nights looking for hookups. We see an early scene of her hooking up with an entire band, the member most relevant being Franki (Mark Senter). Eventually, Erica loses her living arrangement with the arrival of Nate (Noah Taylor), a psychopathic military vet and former interrogator who, despite his clear psychopathy, forms an attachment to Erica.

Our second plot will concern Franki. We learn that his band is starting to get a little traction. He’s also helping his mother (Mary Matthews), who is going through chemo. A part of that is that Franki regularly donates blood for her. We learn that the chemo has been successful at the same time we learn that Franki is HIV-positive, meaning he has almost certainly infected his mother. We also learn that the only possible source of Franki’s infection is…Erica.

The second act of Red White & Blue consists of Franki learning about his diagnosis, his mother’s suicide, and Franki and his bandmates hunting down Erica and him exacting his revenge against her for his HIV status and the death of his mother, for which he blames here. The third act consists of Nate learning what has happened to Erica and exacting his terrifying and brutal revenge against Franki and his bandmates. Roll credits.

Red White & Blue is a film that gives us no one to truly care about. This is a film of pure nihilism where virtually everyone involved is terrible. Franki’s mom is an innocent, as is the daughter of one of Franki’s bandmates, but very few others deserve any pity or empathy. Nate is clearly psychotic. He’s single-minded in his pursuit of his own justice and shows no real remorse or hesitation in causing terrible pain or killing others, and doesn’t hesitate to maim and kill completely innocent people in pursuit of this justice. Erica is presented to us initially as a broken woman focused only on sex to fill her life, until we learn that she specifically had unprotected sex with men in an attempt to infect them with HIV because of the sexual trauma in her past. Franki, seemingly a guy willing to do anything for his mom, became infected by cheating on his girlfriend, eventually rapes Erica, and then kills her. As for Franki’s bandmates, they’re immediately on board when Erica dies and are clearly willing to cover up the crime, up to and including dismembering Erica’s body.

Red White & Blue keeps most of the gore off-screen. We get a few aftermath shots and a lot of preliminary torture shots, but not a lot of the actual event. That makes this easier to watch in the sense of us not having to see things, but worse in the sense that we are forced to imagine it. Remember the “pliers and a blowtorch” line from Pulp Fiction? That’s Red White & Blue if you saw someone gearing up with the tools, heard a few seconds of torture, and then saw the body afterwards.

This is a film I expect will come back to me over the next few weeks, much like Audition, L’Interieur, and Martyrs. It’s also, because of this, impossible to recommend, although it’s certainly a memorable watch.

Why to watch Red White & Blue: If you really want a revenge movie, this is here for you.
Why not to watch: It is watching-through-your-fingers nasty.


  1. Replies
    1. The first hour is a slow decline. The last half hour is a hard sit.