I have 478 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Red Road (2006)
What’s it rated? Unrated for exceptionally unattractive graphic sex, misery and a permeating squalor that invades every frame of the film.
Did people make it? Written by Andrea Arnold, Anders Thomas Jensen and Lone Scherfig. Directed by Andrea Arnold. Acted by Kate Dickie, Tony Curran, Martin Compston, Natalie Press and Paul Higgins.
What’s it like in one sentence? A never ending parade of heartbreak, loss, mumbled dialogue and shame.
Why did you watch it? I chose this one out of a list of movies given to me by Chewer Louis Pantelakos Jr. I probably should have chosen Flame & Citron instead.
What’s it about in one paragraph? A woman named Jackie is working as a CCTV operator in Glasgow and notices a familiar face from her past on one of her monitors. For reasons unbeknown to us, she stalks him and starts inserting herself into his life gradually, then more overtly. In the film’s final ten minutes we find out what their connection is and why she’s stalking him and it’s what you might call… underwhelming. Also ridiculously, dumbfoundingly lame and inconsistent.
Play or remove from my queue? Remove it. I know I’m in the minority of people who disliked this film, but I found absolutely nothing of interest (other than a couple of good performances) in the entirety of Red Road’s glacially paced 114 minute running time. I’m a fan of the slow burn just as much as the next guy but this film never actually ignites, it just lies there inert and twitching, every once and a while throwing off a spark. The film just feels like it would have worked better as a short or even a prose piece, but as a feature length film it frustrated me and left me cold and indifferent to every event on screen. I begged the movie to end several times throughout it’s padded length, but as movies aren’t conscious beings, it just kept playing and pissing me off more with each passing second.
To start off with something nice to say, I will admit the acting is magnificent. Kate Dickie, even though I found her character to be ludicrously conceived and plotted, gives an incredibly natural performance as Jackie. We can tell her character is wounded and mostly broken, but Dickie plays her with such vulnerable strength that in a different movie, I would have given a shit. That said, I never actually cared about her character in this film because the script never let me get to know her. Yes, there are moments where we get a little peek at her psyche, but when we find out the reason behind her stalking of the man she sees on her CCTV monitor, it’s so ludicrous that it shades all of her previous behavior with a thick miasma of bullshit. I don’t believe that anyone who has been through what she has would do the things she does by the finale. I know I’m being vague, but I really want to get into a discussion about this movie with you folks in the comments, so I don’t want to drop any big spoilers up in here.
Tony Curran (who I’ve been a fan of ever since he played Preacher in Blade 2) is also fantastic as the man being followed and watched by a desperate and lonely woman. In some scenes his character comes across as little better than a mongrel dog sniffing crotches, while in other areas he comes across as multi-layered and sympathetic. I wasn’t sure if this was because we see the whole movie from Jackie’s perspective of how she views the man or if it was just more inconsistent writing and plotting. I found it pretty telling that for the majority of the film’s running time, Curran’s character is a bit of a cypher since we have no idea what he did to warrant Jackie’s interest, yet I found myself more sympathetic with him than anyone else in the film.
The acting is not where the problems of this film lies. The problems all lie at the feet of Co-Writer and Director Andrea Arnold and the inherently flawed execution of this entire project. By the end of the film, when all of it’s secrets are laid bare, the plot reveals itself as goofy and only one step up from the exact same plot I’ve seen in episodes of Law & Order and Red Shoe Diaries. This wouldn’t be a problem, but the movie takes itself so seriously that instead you have half of a pulpy, trashy mystery and half of a miserable, slice of life drama. The film works as neither. Since it’s shot in the Dogme 95 style with all natural lighting and sound and constant shaky cam, it needed a more grounded plot that could be told with a minimum of flair, but due to the ridiculousness of the story it’s telling, it all comes across as confused and muddled. Black Swan actually did something incredibly similar with the fly on the wall filming style combined with kind of a silly, melodramatic premise, only that blend managed to strengthen both sides and create a mostly flawless whole, while Red Road just ends up being something akin to a woman after gender re-assignment surgery who realizes she made a mistake and misses her tits.
An hour into the film (when I realized that Jackie was still stalking her prey and there didn’t seem to be any end in sight) I started tuning out. I wanted to turn it off and watch something different, anything. But I finished it and I’m glad I did because I can truthfully say I watched every frame of this movie and mostly hated it. It wallows in misery and despair for every second of it’s running time (which is fine, but you have to give me people to care about that I want to see escape their plight). It makes Glasgow look to be the nastiest shit pile of a city ever churned out by man (which it very well might be since I haven’t been there before and now probably won’t). The sound editing is so piss poor and the Scottish accents are so thick that I could only hear three out of every five words. Andrea Arnold’s direction is assured but ultimately hollow because it’s so derivative of works by von Trier, Vinterberg, Korine and Hanake. I could just go on and on listing the things I didn’t like about this movie but I want to let you guys tell me what you thought of it. Am I missing something that makes this rise above it’s generic plot and tired execution? I feel like I was supposed to like it but I didn’t. I fucking hated it. Help me out here.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? My self respect makes me just want to stop talking about this film, but my masochism won’t let me. Red Road is the first part of a project called The Advance Party, which is a challenge set by Lars von Trier to Andrea Arnold and two other directors to make three separate films with the same cast of I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Why? New Town Killers (sounds like a British Surviving the Game), Alexandra’s Game (haven’t seen but looks interesting), Morlang (never heard of it but sounds like another misery loves company type deal), The Living and the Dead (been wanting to watch this but haven’t been in the right mood. Looks horrific) and Fish Tank (same filmmaker but with Fassbender starring. Heard great things about this one).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? Why? 21 Grams (similar plot done right), Mother (a perfect film about a mother’s love), Sliver (just for the voyeuristic aspects), The Crossing Guard (a revenge film with substance and powerfully drawn characters), Cloverfield (why not?).
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.6
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? .5
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? It just goes to show you how relative film watching can be. Last week I gave Blood Creek (an instantly forgettable but fun horror flick) an above average review and recommended it, while this week I watched the 2006 Grand Jury prize winner of Cannes and I refuse to tell anyone they should watch it. For those of you that loved it, I’d be really interested to hear your take on it because I thought Red Road was like a two hour long barbed wire enema but worse since you don’t really feel cleaned out afterwards. Let me know in the comments down below.
Did you watch anything else this week? I watched a few things but they all paled in comparison to I Saw the Devil, another masterful Korean revenge thriller. This one is directed by Kim Ji-woon, the man behind A Tale of Two Sisters and The Good, The Bad, The Weird. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as Oldboy, but it’s damn close and one of the finest examples of the revenge genre I’ve ever seen. It’s brutal and very bloody and with a running time of close to two and a half hours, make sure you’re in the mood for it before committing.
Next Week? The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes. Just because.