Rumley fashions a narrative around three characters. The first is Erica (Amanda Fuller), an abused and emotionally distant girl who falls into bed with a different stranger (or strangers) every night, trying to block out her painful memories with the white noise of meaningless sex. The second is Nate (Noah Taylor), a quiet, unassuming man who works at a local hardware store and keeps mostly to himself. Lastly, there is Franki (Marc Senter), a moody, angry garage rocker who fights with authority but keeps careful watch over his mother (Sally Jackson), who is in the process of undergoing cancer treatment.
The driving connection during the first half of the film is between Erica and Nate. Nate, in keeping with Rumley's "broken in the USA" motif, is a discharged Iraq war vet still recovering from his tour of duty. As a fellow drifter bearing emotional scars, he seeks out Erica and slowly coaxes her into allowing him to get closer to her. With the benefit of a supportive, non-sexual relationship, Erica finds some of her painful memories fading into the background. At least, that's how it is in Rumley's script; sadly, Taylor and Fuller lack the chemistry to make their relationship particularly compelling.
A third of the way in, Rumley awkwardly shifts gears to Franki, shoving his first story aside to give his third character the spotlight. The primary focus is on Franki's close relationship with his mother and distant relationship with the rest of his family, his boss, and his girlfriend. Early on in the movie, we actually first see Franki (with the rest of his band) as one of Erica's various conquests, and although the film takes its sweet time getting there, preferring to immerse the audience in Franki's wholly unlikable personality, eventually his story turns out to be the domino that knocks the rest over.
The connection between these characters, which I won't reveal, is enough to link Nate all the way through to Franki's mom, and for one brief period, the film finds itself navigating a wealth of exciting possible threads concerning the way the actions of one can affect another. And yet, just when Rumley has the audience's full attention, he carelessly tosses the entire heap of potential aside, turning the wheel away from any sort of emotional or dramatic truths and off towards "extreme" horror, staging scene after scene for the rest of the film that exist solely to browbeat the movie's malicious, hateful message of suburban unease into the viewer's head. These sequences are also plagued with Rumley and editor Rob Hall's overactive editing, which uses fragmented cuts of a man screaming in sorrow to indicate either the fractured nature of the character's psyche, or perhaps just Avid boredom, and composer Richard Chester's shrill, irritating score, which sounds like a young child banging away on a piano with no rhyme or reason.
Beyond its failure to capitalize on its few good ideas, Red, White & Blue has absolutely nothing beneath the surface. In a world with school shooters and terrorism and sex scandals and hate crimes, it's baffling that Rumley seems to think the "regular family/white picket fence" facade of "normal" Americans is still intact; technology in particular has shined a light on the darkened corners of the world, and if people would no longer be deeply shocked to learn something disturbing was happening within a ten-mile radius from their homes, Rumley's script is just a grim excercise in torture. The result is a complete creative failure: not exactly an amateurish or poorly-made film, but one that takes its sole good idea and squanders it, sandwiching the remains between a snail-paced beginning and a grating, thankless ending.
The Video and Audio
The terrible chords of Richard Chester's piano score are cleanly rendered in Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and...well, the rest of the audio sounds about as good as it can, given it all seems to be source audio. Not too much pickup of the environment here, but there's also not much to say about a track that's basically all dialogue and one clinky piano theme. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also included.
Trailers for Kaboom, Prey, White Lightnin' and In Her Skin play before the main menu. The original theatrical trailer for Red, White, and Blue is not included.