Billed as an intense thriller, writer-director Wes Miller’s third micro-budgeted feature RIVER RUNS RED is being released this Friday, November 9. In the film, Taye Diggs stars as Judge Charles Coleman Sr. who has worked his way from police officer, to law school, to ruling on the bench – where he attempts to work fairness into a racially skewed and politically corrupted system. When he and his police officer wife (Jennifer Tao) are faced with the murder of their son by two police officers, Coleman attempts to find justice within the system but resorts to a plan of revenge with fellow mourner Javier (George Lopez) whose son was murdered by the same officers. John Cusack, an executive producer along with Diggs, plays Coleman’s friend Detective Horace who helps him investigate the murder.
The movie starts off promising with a flashback to Coleman’s love of the law and his relationship with his son, fast forwarding to he and his wife celebrating as their son is about to attend his first day at the police academy – following in his parents’ footsteps. Unfortunately, after the murder/cover-up there were parts of the story that left a gap and made it difficult to truly relate to the protagonists and their subsequent journeys.
Case in point, Taye Diggs’ character clearly followed “respectability politics” and felt his work and ethics would speak for themselves to break down any barriers he experienced. It’s this viewpoint that is shown briefly in a limited conversation he has with his son during the early flashback, and later on in discussions with his wife after their son is murdered.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough character development to explain choices he (legally) made after his son’s death being shaped by this attitude and his wife’s argument that he wasn’t doing enough simply came off as bickering and mean as opposed to justified. At one point she calls him a “slave” (to the system) and instead of agreeing I felt it more offensive, especially with her being Asian (American?).
To the latter point, there’s a question mark because no movie time was spent describing the wife’s background at all. There was a repast scene that had me questioning where her family was. Diggs’ character later mentions that her parents had a problem with her pregnancy (at 17 years-old) and they didn’t have much contact. But did they shun his family, enough to skip their grandson’s funeral? It is never explained, and the audience is only left to make assumptions.
It was great to see George Lopez stepping into a dramatic role but, like Tao’s, his character’s choices weren’t completely relatable and might have been supported with more backstory.
With a timely theme of police brutality and corruption, Miller would have done well to expound on the area of systemic racism, even on an elementary level, rather than to rush on to a sloppy revenge plot.
I wanted to enjoy this film more, but there were too many plot holes for me to do so. What started out as promising ended up requiring too much effort to suspend disbelief. I rate this 2 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
RIVER RUNS RED is out in select theaters (check listing below) and Video On Demand on November 9.
Friday, November 9th 2018
Southlake Pavilion 24
Baton Rouge 16
Easton Tower Center 30
Jersey Gardens 20
Gulf Point 30
Perry Crossing 18
Kansas City, MO
Las Vegas, NV
Town Square 18
Los Angeles, CA
New Orleans, LA
Oklahoma City, OK
Crossroads Mall 16
Cherry Hill 24
Veterans Expressway 24
The Villages, FL
Grand Rapids 18