Ida Red

Written by Alexander Reams

37/100

There are countless “A boy and his mother” stories throughout Hollywood’s history. From Psycho to The Babadook to Moonlight, these films helped define and redefine this iconic trope, and now a new one wants to join the ranks of these iconic films. John Swab’s Ida Red is focused on the titular character’s son, who, along with his family, tries to get Ida out before her terminal illness kills her. While this premise might seem promising, let me assure you, don’t be fooled like I was. 

This isn’t writer/director John Swab’s first time behind the camera, his past works garnering anywhere between somewhat positive and downright horrendous reviews. Here he’s assembled his most stacked cast, Frank Grillo (Dallas Walker), Melissa Leo (Ida “Red” Walker), Josh Hartnett (Wyatt Walker), Deborah Ann Woll (Jeanie Walker), William Forsythe (Lawrence Twilley), Beau Knapp (Jay), and Mark Boone Junior (Benson Drummond). This stacked cast can be a big draw for people, myself included. Unfortunately, I let this blind me from the clear red flags. Any filmmaker that manages to score 0% on rotten tomatoes is one to avoid, and that was the case here.

Logic is a key factor in telling a story, and even in the competently-made opening scene, there are logical errors, an edit that shows a character in a car when we just saw them get out of the car. This in particular stuck out and actively frustrated me. When logical problems arise in the film, that could’ve so easily been avoided, it becomes very confusing as to why the director did not recognize these issues, and why they did not stop them from occurring. The storylines presented are always overlapping, with the main thread being Dallas and Wyatt Walker. Grillo and Hartnett do serviceable jobs with what little they were given. A fault that does fall on Writer/Director John Swab. Although such can be the case when one of your previous films scored a lovely 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Ida Red Trailer

Ida Red is currently available to rent from most major VOD platforms.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

The Gateway

Written by Patrick Hao

28/100

Shea Whigham has the type of face that is able to give the whole backstory of his character. That’s why he has been a stalwart character actor in films like Silver Linings Playbook, Wolf of Wall Street, and Take Shelter. It’s a wonder why it took so long for Whigham to lead an indie crime film – hell, John Hawkes has led several at this point. The Gateway finally gives Whigham a chance to lead a film, although it does not match the sturdiness of Whigham’s performance.

The film, the second feature from commercial and music video director Michele Civetta, is stuck between a gritty sociopolitical character study and a pulp neo-noir destined to be a spontaneous movie choice by “that” uncle during the holidays. The Gateway, unfortunately, does neither especially well. On the character end, Whigham plays Parker Jode, an ex-fighter turn social worker, who takes an interest in helping a young girl, Ashley (Taegen Burns), and her troubled mother Dahlia (Olivia Munn) way beyond his duties as a social bureaucrat. Parker Jode is the classic reserved tough guy – one who feels more than he says. Civetta uses all of Whigham’s weathered wrinkles to his advantage in that regard.

On the crime end, Ashley’s father Mike (Zach Avery) is released from prison. He is a triple whammy of a drunk, cheat, and abuser who continues to commit robberies at the behest of local crime boss Duke (Frank Grillo). When an armed robbery turns violent, Mike decides to stash heroin into his unwitting daughter’s bag, setting the movie into action. Oh yeah, strong supporting characters playing their typecasts appear throughout from Taryn Manning (as a barfly of course), Mark Boone Junior (as a drug-dealing bartender of course), Keith David (as a Keith David type of course), and Bruce Dern (as a doddering cursing Vietnam vet, trying to atone for his sins as the father of Parker Jode of course).

The Gateway is exactly the type of movie you expect from the title, the poster, and the cast. None of it is especially convincing except for Wigham who is trying his darndest to make his world-weary character enough to carry the film. Civetta is not devoid of style. His influences are clear. The film starts out with neon hues like a second-rate Michael Mann and quickly devolves into straight to Redbox over lit tones.

It would have been better if the film decided to lean into its pulpier proclivities. Rather, Civetta and his screenplay written with Alex Felix Bendaña and Andrew Levitas leans into the hard times social message clichés. None of it is particularly convincing or inspiring. It doesn’t help that Olivia Munn and Zach Avery give stilted performances. It’s the chicken or the egg situation – was it the performances or the script that is wooden. The answer is probably a bit of both. Its hard to be too hard on a film like The Gateway. Its aspirations seem minimal, with its only ambitions being a calling card to whomever gets a break from this small film. It does not help the case of Shea Whigham, “Leading Man,” because even as the lead, the film is straining to focus on someone else.

The Gateway Trailer

The Gateway is available in select theaters and on VOD. Available on Blu-ray and DVD on September 7th.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.

Episode 90: Rescreening Margaret

“Filmmaking, like any other art, is a very profound means of human communication; beyond the professional pleasure of succeeding or the pain of failing, you do want your film to be seen, to communicate itself to other people.”

Kenneth Lonergan

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor Rescreen Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret and provide a First Impression on their next Rescreening episode title, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line.

Margaret Trailer

Margaret is currently available to stream on HBO Max

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