Like many things Lucas related these days "Red Tails" was overshadowed by controversy from its executive producer, George Lucas who has been attempting to finance a big budget Hollywood adaptation of the all-black WWII air force pilots. Lucas chose to take potshots at Hollywood by saying Hollywood wouldn't support a movie with an all-black cast like "Red Tails," and in the wastelands of January 2012, "Red Tails" limped onto screens. Failing to even break even on it's $58-million dollar budget, one might make the logical mistake of believing Lucas' comment was proven correct, but that would be a mistake, this is a post-Star Wars George Lucas film we're talking about after all.
Believe it or not, "Red Tails" is not a bad movie, but concurrently, it's not very good either. Directed by Anthony Hemingway, the film manages to gather a more than capable cast of underrepresented black actors, with Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. taking critical supporting parts and also adding some marquee value to the film. Despite the prominent billing of Howard and Gooding Jr., "Red Tails" is kept alive by the duality of two characters: Joe "Lightning" Little (David Oyelowo) and Martin "Easy" Julian (Nate Parker). Neither character represents an actual member of the Tuskegee Airmen and a very alarming signal that while "Red Tails" wants to tell a truly inspiring and exciting historical tale, its script can't be bogged down with history apart from it acting as a backbone for an overly long, poorly paced two-hour action-drama.
What makes "Red Tails" a must-see (yes, you read that right), is it's truly thrilling, albeit physics bending action set pieces. When the focus is on the aerial dogfights between the Red Tails and German forces (always led by a true caricature of an evil pilot), the time flies by thanks to some quite impressive CGI creations. If there's one thing great that Lucas brings to the table here, is his love for no-punches-pulled action. Unfortunately, as the story moves back to the ground, the script's stiff dialogue, often made up of heavy-handed platitudes and continually failing attempts at wit, becomes downright cringe worthy. To make matters worse, the screenplay flails from social issue to war film cliché, covering racism (naturally), alcoholism, class issues, and yes, a sloppy shoehorned in romance. The end result is a narrative that is barely serviceable and leaves the cast looking less than stellar as they try to make it work.
Not every non-combat moment is a failure of cinema, entirely due to the efforts of the cast to inject as much charisma in the non-spotlight moments of the film as possible. At the end of the film, going into the climatic battle, the viewer truly cares for these characters, despite them being just that, rather than accurate portrayals of real heroes. The film ends on a slightly higher note than it begins from an entertainment perspective, but chances are when the credits roll, you'll have had your fill of "Red Tails" forever. Maybe Lucas is right and Hollywood, the system, doesn't want to fund an all-black film, but Lucas better not think "Red Tails" wasn't well-received because of that reason; no audience wants to see a mediocre at-best film, which is what "Red Tails" is, but it's still very much worth checking out, partially due to the exact reason Lucas decided to make a political issue: the cast.
Since Fox only sent a DVD-R screener, an accurate review of the DVD's video quality cannot be written. Should they provide a final street copy of the disc, this review will be updated accordingly.
Since Fox only sent a DVD-R screener, an accurate review of the DVD's audio quality cannot be written. Should they provide a final street copy of the disc, this review will be updated accordingly.
The lone extra is a highlight reel from a feature-length documentary that appears on the Blu-Ray release about the actual Tuskegee Airmen.
"Red Tails" definitely feels like a modern day George Lucas production: a broad story full of wooden dialogue, delivered by actors more than capable of handling A-level material, with jaw-dropping action sequences distracting us from mediocrity at times. Approach the movie as historically inspired, war film and you'll do fine; expect to learn a history lesson and you'll walk away fuming. Rent It.