Red (2008)

The title of this simmering revenge tale refers to the beloved dog of Avery Ludlow (Brian Cox), a present from his, now deceased, wife and his best and most loyal friend in the World. Through a brief introduction we are given a glimpse at their relationship and a set-up to the devastating events that follow. On a quiet, sunny day Ludlow decides to take his dog; Red and go down to the river to do some fishing. It’s then that he is confronted by three teenage boys, one of whom is brandishing a shotgun. When their attempts to rob him fall flat they decide that a fitting punishment for the old man is to shoot his pet through the head. Stunned and bereaved, Ludlow manages to track the boys down and when their parents fail to provide the retribution that their sons brutal act deserves, he realises that more extreme action may be required.

I’m not a dog lover. Nor am I a particularly sentimental person but despite that, Red’s early, pivotal scene left me simultaneously choking back tears and filled with righteous rage. The scene in which the boys kill the dog and unwittingly set off a chain of increasingly violent events is completely without a soundtrack and Cox’s reactions are so subtle that it almost shouldn’t work but it’s dealt with so well by all involved that even the most hard-hearted viewer would surely find it impossible not to feel its crushing emotional blow.

Those familiar with Lucky McKee’s work as a director might be surprised at his choice to co-direct this tragic story. It’s so far removed from his earlier work (May, The Woods) that you’d be forgiven for not guessing at his involvement at all. The story though, adapted from a novel by Jack Ketchum, touches on a few familiar themes within McKee’s modest back catalogue which might explain his decision to depart from habitual horror terrain into tense thriller territory. Regardless, he does an excellent job at creating a slow-burning, progressively taut movie which grips right up to the bittersweet climax.

In addition to being what must be one of the hardest working actors today, Brian Cox is also one of the best. He always seems to choose his films carefully and excels in each role he tries his hand at. Red is no exception. He carries the entire film, with able support from Tom Sizemore, and once again proves why he’s continually so in demand in this industry. There are also brief appearances by Robert Englund and Amanda Plummer and although they do well with what little screen time they have, their roles aren’t particularly memorable and add little to the proceedings.

Red might make you ask yourself some important questions. It might make you venomously angry at the judicial system concerning animal abuse. It might make you wish you were as badass as Brian Cox. It might make you find a new appreciation for man’s best friend. It might make you do and feel lots of things but it will almost certainly affect you in some small way. Watch it and appreciate it.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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