Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Josh Hartnett, Melissa Leo, Frank Grillo, Sofia Hublitz, William Forsythe, Deborah Ann Woll, George Carroll (a.k.a. Slaine), Mark Boone Junior, Beau Knapp, Nicholas Cirillo, Ben Hall, Bruce Davis
Written by: John Swab
Directed by: John Swab
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language throughout and some sexual content
Running Time: 111
Date: 11/05/2021
IMDB

Ida Red (2021)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Jail Knell

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The storytelling in this crime drama is far from clean and the screenplay drags out quite a few stale old chestnuts, but it has a good pulpy quality, and the performers bring the characters to life.

Crime boss Ida "Red" Walker (Melissa Leo) is in prison, dying. Her son Wyatt Walker (Josh Hartnett), and Wyatt's tough-guy uncle Dallas (Frank Grillo) will stop at nothing to get her out before she passes. They plan a robbery of a drug delivery truck, which goes south. Dallas must then kill all the witnesses, which brings the attention of cop Bodie Collier (George Carroll, a.k.a. Slaine), who also happens to be married to Wyatt's sister Jeanie (Deborah Ann Woll).

Bodie and Jeanie are raising rebellious fifteen-year-old Darla (Sofia Hublitz), who, like her uncles, seems drawn to trouble. Wyatt and Dallas threaten a member of the prison board to release Ida on parole, and then set off for a multi-million-dollar robbery that, if all goes well, will leave the family set up for life.

John Swab's Ida Red gets off on the right foot with its characters. Wyatt has a legit business that covers up his criminal activities, and he's capable of being charming as well as brutal. His visits to his ma in prison reveal that she's in charge of everything, and Leo is powerful in the role; she recalls the "Smurf Cody" character from both the movie and TV series Animal Kingdom, as well as Margaret Wycherly's Ma Jarrett in White Heat (1949). Grillo is a standout, choosing to go over-the-top (as he did in Boss Level) and coming out mesmerizingly psychopathic. (He does a little dance to Naked Eyes's "Promises Promises" before dispatching one of his victims.)

Most of the other characters seem to have inner lives, or at least weird bits of business to perform, such as cop William Forsythe forever shoving pieces of broccoli-green gum into his mouth, or bearded lawyer Mark Boone Junior lunching at a sushi-train cafe. Some of the dialogue includes groaners like "I'm getting too old for this s--t" or "one last job and we're out," and some ideas and events feel tacked-on, not quite fitting into the rest of the story.

But Ida Red has its share of unique touches, such as Wyatt and Dallas's attempt to set up a meeting with a Black mob boss, as well as a spiky B movie quality, embracing its under-the-radar cheapness, and unafraid to try off-the-wall things like using Madonna's lush, romantic "Crazy for You" as backdrop for a moment of violence.

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