Julien Neaves – Editor
It’s another day and I have another review for you from the 15th annual Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. It is just the gift that keeps on giving. So we’ve had reviews of a supernatural thriller and some dystopian Sci Fi, but today it’s all about action, not a bag of mouth.
And that action is courtesy of Code R.E.D.D. The film tells the story of private detectives Devoughn Drake and Richard “Richie” Evans (Dechland Connor and Jonathan McIntosh respectively) who agree to retrieve a briefcase for a shady businessman named Randolph Shaw (Jeremy McInstosh). But the simple job gets very complicated when that briefcase leads them into conflict with a trigger happy gangster, a sociopathic soldier and a group of deadly human traffickers.
The film is the debut of writer/director/producer/chief/cook/bottle washer Joel Moss, and he has hit a boundary on his first ball (that’s a cricket reference for anyone who may be confused). I interviewed him while wearing my journalist cap and to hear all the struggles and difficulties this production went through it is a minor miracle that it came out as well as it did.
The cast has a couple of seasoned actors in Gary Moore and Stephen Hadeed Jr. (aka my favourite Trini actor in a bad guy role) but the majority of them are first timers. So the fact that the performances are not The Room-bad is testament to both their efforts and Moss’ skills. Now nobody is going to be up for any awards here but they are generally solid and believable in their roles. The leads Drake and Evans have that classic odd couple, old/young buddy cop dynamic that is always fun. Drake is especially charming and witty, while Evans is a little whiny but that is just how he was written. And all the bad guys are wonderfully over the top and menacing, and leave no piece of scenery un-chewed.
What is Code R.E.D.D.’s greatest asset? If you guessed it was actress Ortancia Maloney (pictured above) well then you would be wrong, though she is very easy on the eyes. No, the film’s greatest asset is its action sequences, which is fortunate seeing that it is an action movie. Prior to viewing this film the best action choreography I had seen in a local film was from gangster flick Welcome to Warlock. But Code R.E.D.D.’s action is even better. The shoot outs are sleek, fast paced and blood splattering, reminding me of the gritty, golden era of 80s action movies. And the hand to hand combat is brutal, bloody and visceral. If you are looking to get your action fix I doubt you will be disappointed.
Another plus for the film is that it is not just action for action sake (which, mind you, is not a bad thing). Moss wanted his movie to have a message and the theme of human trafficking was a good choice. There is an inherent danger and need-for-rescue aspect that drives the plot, and there is also some very real commentary on the situation in the Trinidad and Tobago. The message may be somewhat blunt but it never feels preachy nor distracts from the overall experience. The plot itself is nothing mind blowing but there were a couple twists that caught even a seasoned reviewer like me. And the pacing does lag a bit in the final act but it generally moves along quickly.
To demonstrate what this film represents to the local industry let me provide some context. Trinidad and Tobago’s relatively young but growing film industry has done very well in documentaries and pretty good in dramas but not so well in the action movie genre. We had the early martial arts action movies of G. Anthony Joseph’s Men of Gray films, more modern efforts like 2017’s Pendulum, and a few in the gangster action sub genre like Zesser: The Movie and the aforementioned Welcome the Warlock. But there have not been many overall, which is regrettable because as Joseph would tell you action is a very marketable genre overseas.
So the fact that Code R.E.D.D. is such a solid action movie not only augurs well for its own future as a film (Moss also has a sequel and TV series planned) but for the future of TT action films in general. And if action movies can crack the code for TT films (and Cariwood by extension) breaking into the international market (who say Netflix?) then that will be cause for much celebration.
So while Code R.E.D.D. may not be the best made local film technically not the best written, it is arguably the best action film. And it is definitely a monumental achievement for a first time director. I for one will be keeping my eye out for more from this franchise.
Julien’s Score: 7.5 out of 10
If you would like to view Code R.E.D.D. yourself, you live in the English-speaking Caribbean and you are reading this on September 14 (whew!) then you can rent it together with another film on TTFF by clicking here. For my review of TT gangster flick Zesser: The Movie you can click here. And for more action-packed film reviews you can like and follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook here.
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”.
I can also be found posting on Instagram as redmanwriter and talking about TV and movie stuff on Facebook at Movieville.