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‘Ida Red’ (review)

Former teen heartthrob Josh Hartnett plays a small town career criminal who wants to do one last job so he can retire and hopefully get his incarcerated, terminally ill mother paroled so she can live out her final days on the outside.
The always terrific Melissa Leo plays the titular, string-pulling matriarch of this criminal family, which also includes Hartnett’s Uncle Dallas, played with typical ferocity by Frank Grillo.
The film opens with Hartnett, Grillo and accomplices posing as DEA agents pulling over a truck searching for drugs.
The plan goes haywire and deaths are involved.
This raises the suspicions of Hartnett’s straight arrow cop brother-in-law (George Carroll). He’s a good man and tries to treat Hartnett as family, but he knows he’s up to no good.
Ida Red seems to want to be a combination of an exploration of a desperate family in a dying small town and how they get by, combined with a rural variation on Michael Mann’s Heat.
There’s even a plot detour near the end that I knew was coming because the film was aping Heat just enough to tip me off.
The filmmakers were very smart to cast Hartnett, a naturally likeable and charismatic actor in the role because it’s a little tough to care what happens to most of these characters.
With the exception of the brother-in-law and to an extent the sister (Deborah Ann Woll), who unfortunately comes across as a bit strident; though to be fair she has her reasons as the characters are lacking in rooting interest.
Whether that be because they are despicable, like Uncle Dallas, or just not that interesting.
A subplot involving Hartnett’s niece starts off intriguingly and then just kind of petered out.
The climax moves along at a good clip and is reasonably entertaining. It’s enhanced by the basically standard but effective score.
There is one misstep with the score, when it oddly becomes comical, in a scene that I did not think was supposed to be very funny. Uncle Dallas and Hartnett are trying to bribe someone out in the middle of nowhere and as they drive off the music turns almost cartoonish for no good reason.
The performances are mostly fine, though at times a bit uneven. Even the reliable Mark Boone Junior has a weak moment or two as he seems a bit lost as to how to approach the dialogue and material.
If you’re a crime film junkie, by all means dive in. It’s more than competently made and it definitely has its moments.
But that’s really the best that can be said about the film. Not bad, but I felt like I’d seen it all before and that it wasn’t distinctive enough to really shine.
*  *  *  *  *
Produced by Robert Ogden Barnum, Jeremy M. Rosen, John Swab
Written and Directed by John Swab 
Starring Frank Grillo, Josh Hartnett, William Forsythe, Deborah Ann Woll,
Melissa Leo, Mark Boone Junior, Sofia Hublitz, Beau Knapp
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