Red Right Hand

Regretfully, Red Right Hand does not currently have any available streaming offerings.

Big Cat, an Appalachian drug lord played by Andie MacDowell, purrs, “If you’re gonna survive in these hills, you’ll have to get used to a little blood,” right before she has her minions feed a Sheriff’s officer to her guard dogs. With a similar concept to their 2017 feature “Small Town Crime,” directors Ian and Eshom Nelms’ “Red Right Hand” has the feel of a dime store pulp novel. Jonathan Easley is a first-time screenwriter.

Orlando Bloom plays Cash, an ex-junkie who had to pay a price in the form of a burned red hand in order to quit Big Cat’s gang in this criminal thriller set in Kentucky. Following his sister’s drug-induced death, he is making an effort to live a quiet life.

Together with his drunken brother-in-law Finney (Scott Haze) and his bookish niece Savannah (newcomer Chapel Oaks), he co-manages her farm from a shanty on her property.

Naturally, though, nobody in these kinds of tales ever truly escapes their past. Cash gets drawn back in when Big Cat sends her group to harass his family because Finney hasn’t returned the $100k he borrowed. Big Cat is “into empire building,” thus no amount of money can make him happy. To help Big Cat preserve her heritage, Cash must thus make use of his special abilities—he is a people person with indiscriminate killing capabilities. There are several violent drug dealings that follow. Cash and Finney also ensure Savannah is aware of how fragile the transaction is.

There’s always a pretend quality to Bloom’s portrayal, even though he tries hard to give the tattooed Cash, whose biceps bulge as he performs pull-ups on the frame of his porch, a hard edge. It’s the acting that you see, not the being. If Bloom had been more interested in the caricature of it all than in realism, this might not have been a problem. Sincere gloom has its place and time, but this kind of blood-soaked drama deserves something more.

Here’s where Garret Dillahunt, who plays Wilder, an ex-junkie and ex-gang member turned preacher, excels. Dillahunt makes grandiose remarks and even grander gestures.

The sermon, which is based on a passage from John Milton’s Paradise Lost and gives the movie its title, can only then resemble Preacher Harry Powell’s insane theological tirades in “The Night of the Hunter,” the pinnacle of Southern-fried pulp filmmaking.

MacDowell achieves these exceptional levels as well, putting on her best shows in a long time. Big Cat rules her kingdom from a massive red brick mansion with an enormous fireplace, built-in bookcases with oak panels, and leather armchairs. In one scene, she uses her underlings’ hot bodies for sex, and in another, she chops off the thumbs of men who cross her with her own shears. MacDowell relishes each and every word.

Too bad, therefore, that instead of looking like a bunch of ruthless murderers, her evil gang members resemble a stomp and holler band. Everyone is overly well-groomed, with impeccably styled beards and fitted attire. What happened to character actors like Jack Elam or Warren Oates, whose gritty countenances complemented the gritty existence these characters were intended to lead?

With high contrast nocturnal landscapes enhanced with orange and teal hues, cinematographer Johnny Derango at least manages to recreate the classic pulpy vibe.

The majority of the movie is set at night, and happily, the lighting in these parts is adequate to create the noir aesthetics. It appears that seeing the characters’ faces is becoming increasingly uncommon in movies these days.

Unfortunately, Bloom is mostly absent for extended periods of time throughout the concluding, dramatic gunfight, which ought to be his moment. The clumsy editing is unable to incorporate Bloom, who spends the majority of the scene creeping into Savannah’s complex through the nearby woods, as Savannah employs her newly acquired gun skills and the preacher spars with Big Cat.

The movie seems to have grasped that Dillahunt and MacDowell were its central characters by this time. Not surprisingly, though, as these two individuals also brilliantly encapsulate the central thesis of the movie, which holds that guns, drugs, money, families, and God are the primary themes of American culture. Indeed.

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