LifeCell
LifeCell Anti Aging & Beauty Tips

Hidden Netflix Gems – Red Road

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

After taking home the Best Live Action Short Film Oscar in 2005 for Wasp, Andrea Arnold made her stunningly assured feature film debut with Red Road, another grim, realistic portrait of unfortunate souls. Fair warning: this is definitely not a feel-good movie. However, if you’re in the mood for something dark, sad and challenging, you could scarcely do better.

Jackie (Kate Dickie) is a single woman working as a closed-circuit surveillance operator in Glasgow, Scotland, where there are apparently cameras on nearly every street corner. Jackie’s rather creepy and mostly dull job is to watch the monitors and report any criminal acts or emergencies to the proper authorities. For a good portion of the film’s beginning, we are thrust into the tediousness of Jackie’s everyday life with little dialogue and no exposition, a refreshing departure from the average movie’s need to explain everything right away. Red Road has rightly been compared to the work of Michael Haneke in this regard, and the element of voyeurism at work here especially recalls two of his best films – Funny Games and Cache – but Arnold has more empathy for her characters and, seemingly, less nihilism in her heart than the great and revered Austrian filmmaker.

The inciting incident of Jackie’s story comes when she glimpses the face of Clyde (Tony Curran), a man who has apparently wronged her in the past, for which mysterious act he has been imprisoned until now. After doing a bit of research, Jackie finds that Clyde has been released early and is now living on the titular “Red Road,” which houses a preponderance of ex-cons looking for a second chance. The idea of redemption for past wrongs is, in fact, the central theme of the film, along with the necessity of moving forward in life, as beautifully illustrated in the final scene.

As the film progresses, though, Arnold wisely leaves the audience guessing as to the exact nature of its protagonists’ shared history. Jackie becomes immediately obsessed with Clyde, to the point that she neglects her duties on the job in order to stalk him from afar, leading to a violent attack she might have prevented if not preoccupied. At first, the red herring we are given to believe is that perhaps Clyde raped Jackie at some point, but as they begin to actually interact in person, he shows no signs of recognizing or remembering her. This central mystery unfolds perfectly, with just the right amount of intrigue to hold the audience in suspense without ever resorting to predictable cliches.

Red Road is truly a remarkable and complex film that eschews easy black-and-white morality in favor of a more nuanced and intelligent approach to its characters and story. When Clyde’s past offense is finally revealed, it is suitably awful and impossible for Jackie to ever completely forgive, yet he is never made out to be a simple villain; likewise, while Jackie has every right to be as self-destructively angry and vengeful as she is, we are never invited to view her as a saint, or her mission as a morally righteous one. The result is a bold and uncompromising film that may not be for everyone, but is nonetheless one of the very best debut features of the past decade.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

Related Posts

Weekend at the Multiplex, Pt. II: The Power of Family Defeats Robot Rehash + the Palm Goes to…. (Updated)

The long holiday weekend is barely halfway through here on the west coast, but the numbers gurus have already spoken. Both Variety and megablogger Nikki Finke report that “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” outgrossed “Terminator Salavation” by 53.5 to 43 million smackers, proving once again the power of family films and that I am, at best, a very mediocre prognosticator. It also indicates that McG’s name and talents may not be pure box office gold.

In other news, in what turned out to be a battle of movie bad boys of various types, the coveted Palme D’Or (that’s Golden Palm to you and moi), has been awarded at Cannes after a week of some very divided audience and critical responses. Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” elicited reactions ranging from reasonably positive to angrily disappointed. “Antichrist,” the new horror film/domestic drama from the personally disliked but often genius-level brilliant Lars von Trier (“Breaking the Waves,” “Dancer in the Dark”) crossed some deep psychological lines in terms of graphic violence and human genitals, leading to a raucous screening and deeply appalling many while eliciting some truly unusual, often more positive, reactions from writers. (Roger Ebert’s take, for one, is certainly worth a look.)

Not too surprisingly, the winner was another overage enfant terrible entirely. Ironically enough, he himself has been simultaneously applauded and despised for the first version of “Funny Games.” The second, English-language, version was mostly just despised for its manipulations and made Bullz-Eyer David Medskar talk of punching its maker in the face, which I’m sure he intended as a metaphor.

That winner would be Austria’s 67 year-old Michael Haneke — often regarded as the world class director most in need of a hug, as well as a punch. He picked up the Palm for “The White Ribbon” a dark (of course!) black and white pre-World War I drama. Haneke has had some out-and-out success apart from “Funny Games” with 2005′s genuinely compelling and thoughtfully upsetting “Caché,” which Ron Howard once considered remaking but, perhaps fearing David’s reaction, choose to make the movie version of “Arrested Development” instead. Probably a wise move, in any case.


UPDATE: Brandon Grey of Box Office Mojo has the final figures “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithinsonian” raked in $70 million on 7,000 screens and “Terminator Salvation” earned $53.8 million on about six-hundred fewer screens. Also, NPR’s hourly newscast this morning suggested that some of T4′s weakness, especially here in Southern Cal, might be related to the ongoing NBA play-offs. Could be, I suppose. That’s what I get for being a guy who writes for an online men’s mag who’s also a complete ignoramus about sports.

Related Posts

Bullz-Eye’s Best and Worst Movies of 2008: Senior Editor David Medsker’s picks

With mere weeks to go, I had no idea what my list for favorite movies of 2008 was going to look like. More accurately, my list contained several movies that my inner critic told me had no business whatsoever in a year-end top ten list. There were a lot of movies that I liked (as you’ll soon discover), but not a whole lot that I loved. Starting about December 1, though, that changed dramatically. Whew.

Oh, and if you just read fellow BE critic Jason Zingale’s list before checking out mine, your eyes do not deceive you. Unlike, say, EW’s Owen Glieberman and Lisa Schwartzman, who seem to go out of their way to run lists as dissimilar as possible, JZ and I are pretty much on the exact same page this year. A meeting of the minds, or a lack of options? A little of both, I suppose.

Best movies of 2008

1. The Dark Knight
I’m not sure how Christopher Nolan is going to top this. This is so much bigger, smarter, darker and bleaker than any other superhero movie ever made that it’s insulting to lump it into the superhero category.

2. WALL·E
Repeated viewings of this since its release on DVD have elevated it towards not just the top of my list of 2008, but on the list of Pixar’s finest work. The dancing-in-space sequence is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
As a longtime David Fincher fan (his video for Madonna’s “Oh Father” still gives me chills), I’ll be the first to admit that his reputation has loomed larger than the quality of his work. He puts his money where his mouth is here. The last ten minutes are devastating.

4. Frost/Nixon
The only man who can give Samuel L. Jackson a run for his money at saying the word “motherfucker”: Richard Milhous Nixon.

5. Iron Man
Let that be a lesson to you: always take the Humdrum-vee over the Fun-vee.

6. RocknRolla
My pet theory: the name of Gerard Butler’s character One Two is a reference to the Specials’ song “Little Bitch.” Can anyone confirm this?

7. Slumdog Millionaire
Do you think that guy that won all those “Jeopardy” episodes was tortured like this movie’s hero was?

8. Let the Right One In
If you see one vampire movie this year…it ain’t “Twilight.” This Swedish import combines the lure of the undead with the hell that is junior high school. The ending to this movie is sadder than any I’ve seen all year, even the one with the dead dog.

9. Revolutionary Road
Only Leo and Kate could make a movie about two miserable suburbanites so watchable.

10. Tropic Thunder
“Now let’s make a movie!” *Clank* “Oh.” *BOOM* Nothing all year made me laugh harder.

Honorable mentions:
The Wrestler
Choke
The Wackness
Burn after Reading

I Was a Middle-Aged Teenager, Part Deux

I’m 40 years old, but some of my favorite movies – or scenes – came from movies that were aimed squarely at my inner 20-year-old.

Step Brothers
If we were to update our Movie Tunes piece, the “Sweet Child o’ Mine” scene would easily be in our Top 20.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
It had what most Apatow-related movies sorely lack: balance. And hot damn, how awesome is Mila Kunis?

Sex Drive
Rumspringa! WOOOOOO!

Zack and Miri Make a Porno
If anyone is thinking about seeing if this will work in real life, we beg you, STOP. The world has enough bad amateur porn as it is, and your friend isn’t a tenth as hot as Elizabeth Banks.

Wanted
I’d debate whether Morgan Freeman’s character was telling the truth in the movie’s final bloodbath, but does it really matter? This was big, dumb, silly, and an absolute blast.

Pineapple Express
Between this and “Choke,” I’ll never think of anal beads the same way again.

Role Models
Finally, a Seann William Scott movie that didn’t make me want to drown kittens.

Docs that rock

Man on Wire
Bigger, Stronger, Faster*

The Kids Movies Are Alright

Kung Fu Panda
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Horton Hears a Who

Appealing to a man, but made for a woman

What Happens in Vegas…
Definitely, Maybe
Baby Mama
27 Dresses

Worst movies of 2008 (that I saw)

1. The Love Guru
Not even Justin Timberlake could save this from being the unfunniest movie of the year, if not all time. It’s like a bunch of teenagers came up with dick joke punch lines, then worked their way backwards for setups. Painfully bad.

2. Meet Dave
It’s over, Eddie. The next time you have a thought about a family movie comeback vehicle, let it go.

3. Over Her Dead Body
The only Eva worth watching this year is the one in “WALL·E.”

4. Untraceable
Screen Gems makes “Saw Lite,” tries to equate gawker’s block on the highway with willingly contributing to the death of another human being. Uh, sure.

5. Mad Money
Note to self: get job at Federal Reserve. If Diane Keaton can steal from them, so can I.

6. Deception
Hearing Michelle Williams say “fuck and suck” might be the funniest thing I heard in a movie all year.

7. Nim’s Island
Someone once asked Elijah Wood why he did the movie “Flipper.” His answer: to swim with dolphins for six months. Now we know why Abigail Breslin did “Nim’s Island”: to play with sea lions. We forgive you, sweetie. Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler, on the other hand, have some ‘splaining to do.

8. Made of Honor
Made all the more sickening by the fact that this will stand as Sydney Pollack’s final performance. He steals the movie, but the movie he’s stealing isn’t worthy of his presence.

9. Married Life
A black romantic dramedy that’s neither dark, nor funny, nor romantic.

10. The Spirit
“NO EGG ON MY FACE!” Um, I don’t know how to tell you this, Sam, but this movie is one giant piece o’ egg on your face.

Well made, but repulsive in every other regard

Funny Games
Few movies will make you angrier than this self-serving cheat of a film. It’s basically two hours of director Michael Haneke saying, “Fuck you America, you violent, brutish thugs.” America responded by (rightly) ignoring his film. I guess we’re not as brutish as you thought, Michael, and what does it say about you that you tried to profit from our supposed misery? Douchebag.

My co-workers saw them so I didn’t have to

Meet the Spartans
Strange Wilderness
Disaster Movie
88 Minutes
Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins

Bonus points to that last movie when cast member Mike Epps gave us quite possibly the worst interview ever.

“Snakes on a Plane” award for Movie Title of the Year

“The Midnight Meat Train.” And surprise, it actually wasn’t that bad.

Related Posts