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There is a tradition in American film that, sadly, seems to have been forgotten. A tradition that is less tied to a genre than to the territory, descending straight from narratives of the Great Depression, gangster stories of the twenties, and bordering on the Western. Stories tied to the epic of the Big Country, those that – not long ago – cinema managed to present and make credible effortlessly. John Swab belongs to the school of film directors who once were the backbone of Hollywood cinema. He has a flair for the shot and an instinct for the exact cut. A sort of Phil Karlson, to be clear.
Ida Red is a rural noir with a distinct western flavor. The film’s title is inspired by a traditional American song of unknown origins that became very popular in the thirties thanks to Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys’ Western Swing version. However, Ida Red – played by Melissa Leo – is also the head of a criminal household who ends up in jail. Ida is liable to die in the can, so her family tries to get her out and possibly find some money to help her live out the remaining days of her life. Swab, who also wrote the film and plays Jerry’s character, does a fine work with the landscapes and doses the blackness of violence very skillfully. The beautiful faces cast for the occasion include Josh Hartnett (Black Dahlia, Pearl Harbor), Frank Grillo (The Purge: Anarchy, Captain America – The Winter Soldier), Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood), Mark Boone Junior (Sons of Anarchy), and William Forsythe (Once Upon a Time in America). In line with certain intuitions of Corman’s, Swab elaborates from a female perspective on a world that he manages to evoke convincingly, while his magnificent cast shines throughout the film.
Giona A. Nazzaro