By Jerome Reuter
Adapting literature to celluloid—it’s harder than it seems. Which brings me to director Lucky McKee, who has a talent for adapting the works of Jack Ketchum to the screen. I have a term for Ketchum’s work; he’s essentially napalm to Norman Rockwell. He immediately dispels any preconceived notions of Middle America. There’s always been a charm to the heartland, suburbia, and the white picket fence of the stereotypical nuclear family. The American dream as it’s often called, is transformed into a living nightmare by his works.
Mckee’s 2008 film Red, based on the Ketchum novel of the same name, is no exception to this. A tale of one mans crusade for justice, and the limits one would go to achieve it. This is a tale set in the heartland of America, and explores the corruption of small town politics contained therein. Aside from all of that, it shares a somewhat similar theme to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus—a continuous cycle of revenge. The film holds your attention, and sweeps you up in the story, never letting your mind go.
The main element that makes this film work extraordinarily well is the cast. We have Tom Sizemore, Robert Englund, and even Ashley Laurence of Hellraiser fame. Each of these players makes the story come to life, in their own way. They each play characters central to the story, and make it more believable, and grounded in reality. However, there’s one actor not on that list that absolutely carries this film: Brian Cox.
In my opinion, Cox is one of the most underrated actors of our day. It’s very seldom that an actor carries a film entirely on his shoulders. Cox makes this film, and I’m not exaggerating. He not only plays a sympathetic protagonist, but someone who’s been pushed to the limit. I’m always glad to see him in a good film, bringing his ‘A’ game. One scene that immediately comes to mind is a monologue, delivered in the films third act. As I’ve said before, real horror is what you don’t see. With every word spoken, your imagination creates a scenario not soon to be forgotten. What more would you expect from the person who gave the best performance of Hannibal Lecter?
(Yes. In my opinion, Brian Cox’s performance in Manhunter is the best Lecter.)
Although this isn’t the darkest of films based on Ketchum’s writings, this is one of the best. McKee’s direction absolutely brings the story to life. Highly recommended for anyone.