Modern Film Noir: Red Stone

I had never heard of Red Stone, a crime thriller, released at the end of 2021. Every film director of tough-guy films hopes to be tagged as noir; you know, the stuff dreams are made of.

Red Stone is a gritty, violent film that weaves two stories together. Usually when that happens in an action film, the intersection of stories is a high body count. The MacGuffin, as used by Hitchcock, in this case is a ruby, the red stone. The ruby sets the story in motion, but that’s secondary to the film. Like the gold in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the ruby burns a hole in every character in the film, and in the end, does not matter.

Greed, loyalty, revenge, justice, family. Who could ask for anything more. Red Stone takes place in some backwater county, where there is a crime boss and a sheriff that is controlled by the boss, surrounded by a lot of nothing, except trouble.

Written and directed by Derek Presley, this is a low-rent caper, and even though it is predictable and sometimes preposterous, it is watchable because of the offbeat characters. It’s a little shocking that Nicolas Cage or Steven Seagal aren’t attached to this project, they seem to own this genre.

One of the stories involves a small-time, white trash member of the crime organization who steals the ruby from the boss, and then finks to the FBI. He plans to leave town with his little brother, but is caught and killed by the boss. The little brother (Motley) escapes with the ruby. He is hunted by the boss’ hitman (Boon) and another sociopath named Hutch. The FBI agent finds Motley, but is killed by Hutch. Everyone associated with Motley is whacked.

Boon is the other story. He is in town to bury relatives who died in a car crash, and to takeover the financial affairs of his mother, who is in a memory care facility. Boon is transitioning out of the organization and trying to be respectable. He’s giving up the high-paying life as the organization’s best problem-solver, which means moving his mother from comfortable care to a lower cost room. He also quit smoking, which serves as a metaphor for returning to his old ways, when he disagrees with scorched-earth methods of the boss, he lights up. That’s the Clint Eastwood sign that trouble is ahead. Subtle. Not.

Boon is a conflicted character, tiptoeing between his old life and his new one; conscience and duty, loyalty and sacrifice. Neal McDonough plays Boon; steely and soldierly, thoughtful and efficient. McDonough is an easily recognizable character actor, known for Band of Brothers, Boomtown, Captain America, Desperate Housewives, Suits, The Arrow, Yellowstone and many others.

Neal McDonough in one of his superhero roles.

Red Stone follows a formula, but Presley attempts to inject a few unexpected actions, and challenges for Boon. In fact, it’s those things that peak your interest in the film. There is a murkiness in many of the characters, a blending of good and bad, and others who simply do what they are written to do.

Should you spend 96 minutes on this film, time you’ll never get back? There are worse choices.

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