If you watched only half of Simon Rumley’s Red White & Blue (2010), you would think it was a more coherent and serious version of Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991 – see my review and its follow-up article). If you watched the entire film, you would see that the dramatic storyline builds to an ultra-violent finale that marks it as a serious contender in the extreme horror subgenre.
The only real connection between Red White & Blue and Slacker is that they are both set in Austin, Texas. Even here, there are distinctions. Linklater focuses on the artsy subculture associated with the University of Texas at Austin. Rumley goes deeper into a more marginal layer of drifters who live in rooming houses. He also includes “locals” who have small businesses and suburban homes.
Both films ring true as captivating portraits of Austin. Yet Linklater is a Texas native, while Rumley hails from the UK. How did Rumley (who, like Linklater, wrote the screenplay for his film) capture the essence of Austin’s seamy side from almost five thousand miles away?
I could try to explain by speculating about “universals” and noting the prevalence of people of Scots-Irish descent who live in the “Greater Appalachia” area that includes most of Texas. But going down that rabbit-hole would distract me from focusing on the sheer power of Red White & Blue.
The seemingly purposeless Erica (Amanda Fuller) lives a chaotically sexual life that brings her into contact with an endless and apparently meaningless series of men. Then she has a brief encounter with Franki (Marc Senter) and the members of his indie rock band. Back at her boarding house, she initially spurns the platonic advances of Nate (Noah Taylor). All three have much deeper and darker lives than first meets the eye. And when this trio comes together in the third act of the film, an entirely believable yet unbelievably brutal and cruel series of events unfolds.
Backstory is the key to this film, which excels on just about every level — from character and story through cinematography, editing, and musical score. I’m not going to spoil it for you by providing you with additional details. Do not read anything further about this film until (and unless) you have seen it. Then come back and tell me about your reaction.
I gave this outstanding independent film 8 out of 10 stars on IMDb. Warning — the following trailer is full of “spoilers”: