Out damned spot! says Lady Macbeth after realizing reckless ambition has engendered indelible guilt.
I’m not sure the makers of the new film on Netflix, Red Dot, quite got the gist of Macbeth, but they have co-opted the idea of guilt in the creation of a thriller, as well as the motif of a red dot. Lady Macbeth cannot expunge a drop of blood that marks her, and in Red Dot, the laser sighting of a rifle –a red dot—paints the protagonists, who are not as innocent as they seem.
Some might call the allusion to Macbeth clever, others cheap. I’d side with the latter, though this does not mean the Swedish film Red Dot is a failure.
If you are to enjoy the movie, begin by turning off the English voice overs and watch it with subtitles. It might be hard to take the movie seriously, but it would be nigh on impossible if retaining goofy-sounding, dubbed in voices.
This technical note aside, what merits and deficiencies does Red Dot possess?
The story is simple. A couple, experiencing some marital discord, takes a trip to a remote part of Sweden. The hope is the excursion will repair whatever is causing them problems. These hopes are quickly dashed, as the couple is hunted by a killer or killers, who, at times, track them with a red dot.
The movie could be a standard paint by the numbers thriller, but it manages to surprise just when you think you are headed for a completely unoriginal ending. That’s the most of its charms.
What’s not entirely original is the structure, which employs a now overused conceit. Let’s call this the Goodfellas construct. In Scorsese’s classic gangster movie, we meet the protagonists in the midst of a fit of violence. We then flashback and spend about an hour getting to know the characters and what leads up to the horrible moment we witnessed at the outset. Though undoubtedly Scorsese was not the first to do this, much that has come after his 1990 film seems to be a heavy borrowing of this design.
I’ve heard this same approach to storytelling often suggested in creative writing circles. Write your book or screenplay. Then take what happens two thirds of the way in and make it the beginning. This creates an aura of mystery, to which you can circle back and keep the reader or viewer hooked.
It can be an effective way to tell a story, but when you see it repeated over and over it fees less stimulating than it is obvious.
And it is this way that Red Dot chooses to frame its plot. Some will watch it and surely find silly choices and plot holes. Others will commend the red herrings, such as racial and immigrant tensions that are interwoven.
Whichever side you fall on, surely no one will confuse Red Dot with Macbeth or Shakespeare even if it’s a taught little piece of filmmaking.
Blast rating: 2 out of 4 stars