Like a fatally deconstructed David Lynch film, “Red 71,” Patrick Roddy’s sophomore directorial outing, lays out the pieces of a highly stylized noir puzzle with maddening deliberation and total lack of humor. Stretched thin at 71 minutes, pic leans heavily on enigmatic atmospherics as a fat gumshoe, assorted lowlifes, cops and a femme fatale are collectively freeze-dried in an iconic shorthand that leaves character and action falling by the wayside. Flashy, defiantly low-budget indie, which opened July 25 at Gotham’s Two Boots Pioneer, makes a great trailer but fails to add up to a movie.
In the middle of Nowhere, Ariz., in a telescoped timeframe that incorporates ’60s cars and ’40s dress, various characters gather at the titular Red 71 Club, constellating around femme fatale Lorain (Michelle Belegrin). Chief among these is Lorain’s friend Shane (Nathan Ginn), a self-styled detective whose girth is as expansive as his speech is meager. When Lorain’s husband, Charley (Ted Parks), is murdered, it signals the start of one long night of rubouts involving local lushes, two-timing boyfriends and trigger-happy mobsters.
“Red” boasts startling if derivative, flatly lit, color-saturated cinematography by helmer Roddy. Characters are wont to suddenly materialize out of pitch-blackness and disappear back into same. Low-angle shots of the corpulent hero behind the wheel of his Cadillac, tooling down a desert highway, promise a hell of a ride. But even the excellent, Angelo Badalamenti-channeled score by Friends of Dean Martinez cannot impart rhythm and momentum to an uninflected series of tableaux.
Thesping is uneven, sleazy second-stringers and role-playing gangsters faring far better than the leads, who are stuck delivering ponderous deadpan monosyllables and striking ennui-oozing poses.
Pic’s centerpiece, a Lynchian retelling of the primal scene in “The Big Sleep” (various suspects in cars pulling away from a flash-signaled murder, a drugged woman left holding the bag) compounds the surreal, arbitrary nature of the plot while setting up the pic’s final ironic/creepy twist. But by then, the viewer couldn’t care less.
Tech credits are ambitious. Carol Anne Gayle’s production design manages to erase all time-specific vestiges from the monochromatically skewed decor. But the artificial distressing of the image seems gimmicky, and the sound quality is not clear enough to support Jason Canfield’s experimentations in audio distortion.