John Swab’s Ida Red focuses on “Ida Red” Walker (Melissa Leo), the woman who united the criminals in Tulsa and head of a Midwestern crime family, is dying in prison. Her two sons desperately want to get her paroled so she can spend her final days not “in a cage”. Wyatt (Josh Hartnett) is just a good-natured armed robber, but kinsfolk Dallas (Frank Grillo) is a loose canon with a regular habit of manslaughter and murder I. Wyatt agrees to participate in a rather elaborate combination of bribery and theft to spring her, but nothing comes easy. The two tried a routine hold up of a truck full of pharmaceuticals that turned into a shooting gallery. Now the Feds are on their tail, headed by Lawrence Twilley (William Forsythe). There’s one surviving witness in the hospital to off, not to mention a pair of seedy brothers.
There is an interesting subplot about Darla (Sofia Hublitz), niece to Wyatt and Dallas. Darla at 15 has some criminal tendencies of her own, commencing with drinking beer at school and culminating in shoplifting some beer to impress a boy. She gets involved with Pete, manager of a hamburger place, but when he negs on their relationship, she has to decide if crime is in her blood and she will choose vengeance or if she’s going to choose to go another route. Given her family history, it seems like imitating her mother, who has gone straight and married a cop, is not in the cards.
The plot is unfocused and disconnected, leaving major points unsatisfactorily resolved. On the other hand, the set pieces, especially when Ida gives her speech to the parole board, are engaging. It is as if the scenes were conceived before the through line to connect them. The “violence” is a bit over the top to the point of cartoonishness, notably a drawn-out scene in which Dallas dances with a young woman to the song “Crazy For You” before shooting her. This kind of excess doesn’t mesh well with the more nuanced relationships established between the different characters.
Overall, Ida Red is an entertaining film but its flaws render it forgettable.
Fantasia continues until August 25 with both online screenings and in person screenings. For information on the Festival and to get tickets, head to the site HERE.