REVIEWS: Three views of Red
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2008:
Three views of Red
Directed by Tygve Allisten Diesen & Lucky McKee. Produced by Norman
Dreyfuss & Tygve Allister Diesen.
Starring Amanda Plummer, Brian Cox, Kim Dickens, Kyle Gallner,
Noel Fisher, Richard Riehle, Robert Englund,
Shiloh Fernandez, and Tom Sizemore.
Released to theatres in August 2008; DVD released in October 2008.
Red, adapted by screenwriter Steph-en Susco from a 1995
novel of the same title by Jack Ketchum, begins with a crime of a
sort that many readers of ANIMAL PEOPLE have encountered, and often
will have personally investigated, prosecuted, or otherwise
responded to as animal advocates.
Red has evoked varied responses from people who care about
animals. Novelist Arthur Winfield Knight, a retired film critic,
wrote to bring Red to the attention of ANIMAL PEOPLE after seeing it
with his wife Kit, who is still an active film critic. ANIMAL
PEOPLE president Kim Bartlett and artist Wolf Clifton watched Red at
Knight’s recommendation, and took different views of it.
Arthur Winfield Knight:
Avery Ludlow, 64, played by Brian Cox, lives alone after
his mentally ill eldest son kills his wife and younger son, with
only his 14-year-old dog Red for companionship. The dog, as a
puppy, was Ludlow’s 50th birthday present from his wife. While
Ludlow is fishing one afternoon, Red lying by his side, three
teenaged deer hunters attempt to extort money from Ludlow. When they
fail, one of them blows Red’s head to pieces with a shotgun.
Another boy laughs.
Ludlow discovers the boys’ identities and confronts the
father of two of them, played by Tom Sizemore. Sizemore’s character
is affluent and uninterested in what Ludlow has to say. The two boys
deny having had anything to do with Red’s death.
The third boy’s father is an out-of-work carpenter who is
also uninterested in hearing Ludlow. His son, like the other two,
denies having any involvement in the shooting.
Ludlow tries to get the boys to admit that they did it, and
to apologize. He interests a young investigative reporter for a
local television station in his story. The reporter, played by Kim
Dickens, interviews Ludlow where Red was killed, but Ludlow does
not divulge the boys’ names from fear of a libel suit. But they know
who he is talking about.
Someone throws a rock wrapped with a piece of paper warning
him to back off. Then someone burns down Ludlow’s small store.
Ludlow knows the boys are responsible, but cannot prove it.
At this point I expected Ludlow to go after the boys, much
as Charles Bronson’s character went after the people responsible for
murdering his wife and raping his daughter in the first Death Wish,
but Red doesn’t play out that way. This is a thinking person’s film.
Without giving anything away, the ending is close to being tragic,
so anyone looking for an easy resolution should probably skip Red.
Everything about Red seems real, and the acting is uniformly
good. The Hollywood Reporter got it right when it said this film is
“riveting,” just as Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times did when he
referred to this small, independent production as “an elegant
My wife Kit and I have a retired racing greyhound who has
become an enormous part of our lives in the past five years. We tell
people that Nikkie is the best dog in the world, and we’re not
kidding. Kit was walking Nikkie once when a spaniel came charging
out of someone’s yard, racing toward Nikkie. The spaniel did not
seem friendly. The dog’s person sat on his porch, watching as if
this was an everyday event. Maybe it was. Kit, usually
mild-tempered, yelled “Keep your dog under control,” although she
added a few expletives.
The man said, “I couldn’t help it. My dog got out of my
yard.” Almost everyone has an excuse, which is at least partially
what Red is about. It is so thoughtful a film that I almost didn’t
quote the Los Angeles Times, because this film is much more than a
I reviewed a film a week for more than a decade, and have
seen a lot of films since then. Kit now reviews films for three
newspapers in Nevada and one in California.
Our perspective is that Red is not only a genuine work of
art, but is, quite simply, one of the best films either of us have
seen in years.
Red is relevant to animal welfare, as it pertains to dogs.
But the main character is both a hunter and fisher. Issues of note
include Avery Ludlow’s inconsistencies toward animals, and
especially the influence that acculturation toward hunting has in
developing the entire scenario, on both sides of the conflict.
Red is rather pro-hunting and pro-fishing, not an animal
rights production at all.
If I had watched Red as simply a movie coming on HBO or
something from Netflix, I would have thought that it was troubling
from an animal rights perspective, but that it might cause some
general viewers to think about hunting as a precursor to violence
against people and pets.
However, the link is not made consciously in the film, and
in no way is violence to non-pet animals presented from a critical or
even questioning angle.
Protagonist Avery Ludlow is an honorable man, as people go,
but the scene in which the dog is killed begins with him sitting with
a fishing pole baited with a live worm on the hook.
Ludlow visits gun stores to try to track down the boys, and
the gun store employees are uncritically portrayed. One gun store
proprietor has a dog and tells how the dog saved his life by
encouraging him to go on even though he had blown off his own foot
while out trying to kill animals. This is also presented without
We first meet the father of the boy who shot the dog in his
study full of stuffed animals. This seems sinister, but not really
different from the good guys at the gun stores who have heads on the
Avery Ludlow’s elder son murdered Ludlow’s wife and younger
son by burning them with kerosene, but no connection is made between
that behavior and any hunting the boy probably was exposed to early
in life. He is mentioned just as a sort of an inexplicable bad seed.
At the end the TV journalist brings Ludlow a puppy from a
friend whose unspayed dog had a litter. That seems hardly worth
mentioning, given everything else.
Misfits Country (2008), the latest of Arthur Winfield
Knight’s historical novels, occurs on the set of The Misfits, the
1961 film that was the last screen appearance by both Marilyn Monroe
and Clark Gable, and brought public notice to the mass roundups for
slaughter which threatened to exterminate wild horses in the U.S.
west. Says Knight’s publisher, Tres Picos Press, “Arthur Winfield
Knight was in Dayton, Nevada when The Misfits was filmed, and he
was in Virginia City when John Huston rode his camel to victory
there,” in a 1960 four-camel race which has become an annual event.
Knight’s other novels include The Secret Life of Jesse James and
Johnny D: The Story of John Dillinger.