Saturday, June 29, 2013

In short: Running Red (1999)

Russian special ops soldier Gregori (Jeff Speakman) retires after a job that leaves his brother dead and an innocent child killed by his superior Alexi (Stanley Kamel). Eleven years later, Gregori has become Greg, some sort of American business person, happily married to Katherine (Angie Everhart), with one daughter, Amanda (Cassie Ray).

Unfortunately, Greg has never bothered to tell his wife anything about his past, an omission that makes it that much easier for his past to come back to him with a vengeance. Alexi and his associate Strelkin (Elya Baskin) are involved in some rather shady deals surrounding an American Football stadium (oh the irony!), and they really need somebody to kill a few people for them. Greg (who, we are repeatedly and helpfully informed, "is the best") is the ideal candidate for that kind of job. And my, wouldn't it be sad if anyone told his wife about his past, or, once things escalate, if something happened to that fine family of his? At least, Alexi does sweeten the deal for Greg with the identity of the person he wants dead: Mercier (Bart Braverman) just happens to be the man who killed Greg's brother, so there shouldn't be too many conscience problems for our hero.

Of course, things become problematic quickly.

Jerry P. Jacobs's Running Red is as fine an example of US direct to DVD action filmmaking as you'll probably find, with nary a flaw disturbing the series of bus chases, shoot-outs and scenes of Jeff Speakman kicking ass.

Of course, if you're very deeply into logically sound plots, Running Red won't make you happy, even though it's actually one of the better motivated direct to DVD actioners I know. Well, Greg's actions do at least make sense; it's a bit doubtful why Alexi doesn't just hire a professional killer for the job and be done with it without going to the trouble of making "the best" very angry at him, something that never works out too well in action movies.

But really, that sort of thing isn't too important in this kind of movie. What's important is that Jeff Speakman has enough motivation to go through an escalating series of cheap yet well-staged action sequences, the audience has enough motivation to cheer for him (and what's easier to relate to - and more caveman simplistic - than a guy protecting his family from problems that are completely his own fault?), that people are pretend-shot, and something exciting happens at least every second scene. Running Red is a movie really good at that important stuff; in fact, from time to time it's downright riveting.

As an added bonus, Jacobs also has a bit of fun with the concept of Being American, rather sarcastically declaring both Alexi's criminal enterprises and Greg's conservative family life to be expressions of the American Dream. Give me that and scenes of Speakman kicking and shooting people, and I'm happy.


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