By: John M Jerva
Frank Grillo is one of the most underrated actors working in cinema today. The man makes a dozen movies a year it seems and he is always watchable and engaging in anything that he does. He’s played bad guys, good guys, morally grey guys and more and it doesn’t matter what genre it is because Grillo elevates anything he’s in.
Today sees the release of the new crime drama Ida Red from director John Swab and once again Grillo is killer, pardon the pun, in the role of a sadistic killer who is part of a family of criminals. The cast surrounding Grillo is sensational including Josh Harnett, Melissa Leo, Deborah Ann Woll and William Forsythe. That right there is reason enough to watch the movie but this film is a sleeper hit in the wake of all the movies that opened this week.
The plot for Ida Red has a strong family structure to it and it basically outlines what one would do for a family member. Ida “Red” Walker (Leo) is terminally ill and when she’s incarcerated for armed robbery, she turns to her son Wyatt (Hartnett) to pull off a major job in hopes of securing her freedom because she knows she won’t survive behind bars. Grillo plays Dallas who is the severely unhinged member of the family who doesn’t think twice about offing somebody.
Hot on their trail is police detective Bodie Collier (George Carroll) and Special Agent Lawrence Twilley (Forsythe). Bodie is conflicted to say the least because he knows the man he is after is in fact his brother-in-law Wyatt. This makes for some interesting drama in the film and gives the plot some unique layers leading up to the inevitable but still pulsating ending.
The cast is all great and it also includes Sofia Hublitz who plays Darla Walker. She’s a very angry young woman who is mad at her mom and proceeds to make poor life choices that’ll lead to dire consequences. William Forsythe is an amazing character actor and I’ve grown up watching him and here he is solid as usual as Twilley.
Josh Hartnett has had an interesting career as at one time he was starring in multiple big budget films like Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down but has since opted for more indie cinema fare and television. As Wyatt, his character has the most layers here as he is a criminal but is exceptionally sympathetic at the same time. You’re not sure whether you should root for him or not making for a complex character arc.
And then there’s Frank Grillo. As Dallas, Grillo is at his sadistic and ruthless best and even though his character was clearly dark, I was still drawn to him. I’m not sure what that says about me but Grillo steals the show in every scene he’s in. One particular awkward highlight has Dallas doing a weird dance just before he’s about to kill somebody. It had a definite Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs vibe to it and I ate it up.
Ida Red is an emotional powder keg with some strong family drama but it is laced with some spectacular R rated action to satisfy genre fans. The film is more of a drama but it is peppered with numerous brutal and unflinching moments and it contains one of the best action sequences of the year in a street firefight that gives Heat a run for its money.
The finale was a pleasant surprise as the climatic shoot-out was riveting, well choreographed and fierce in it’s execution. Like I said, it definitely reminded me of Heat and also Donnie Yen’s Raging Fire which hit last month and this firepower filled spectacle was right up there with the best.
Overall, Ida Red is the sleeper action-drama movie of the year. It’s not audience friendly in the sense that it isn’t mainstream like Marvel’s The Eternals which also hits this weekend but if you’re looking for some deep layered crime family drama punctuated by unforgiving action and violence then look no further. The cast is sensational especially Grillo and the action when it hits is like blunt force trauma. It’s brutal and bloody and the finale is an instant action classic. Do yourself a favor and check this one out ASAP.