Credit: Magnolia Pictures
by Matt Lynch Featured Film Genre Views

Red Right Hand — Eshom Nelms & Ian Nelms

February 27, 2024

Ah, just what 2024 moviegoers needed: another rural crime-thriller rumination on God, Family, and Violence. Red Right Hand, the latest from Ian and Eshom Nelms (following 2017’s sturdy but difficult-to-Google Small Town Crime), has a lot of purpose and a healthy dose of brooding, but aside from a couple good performances, it fails to set itself apart from any number of largely interchangeable entries in the subgenre.

The titular Red Hand belongs to Cash (Orlando Bloom), the result of a self-inflicted burn required by his former employer and longtime criminal kingpin of these Tennessee mountains, Big Cat (Andie Macdowell). Cash has gone straight, and now just wants to work his farm and take care of his alcoholic brother Finney (Scott Haze) and niece Savannah (Chapel Oaks). Would you believe it doesn’t quite work out that way? For reasons adjacent to “because the script says so,” Finney has borrowed a hundred grand from Big Cat and subsequently failed to pay it back, which lands Cash and the whole family in the crosshairs of the old boss lady. Big Cat declines Cash’s offer to pay back the loan because she’s “into empire-building,” whatever that means, and so now it’s a litany of drug deals gone bad, guys with face tattoos and meth teeth threatening teenage girls, and bloody gun battles.

Bloom tries his best; you can really see him gritting his teeth and emoting, dammit, but all that macho sadness sort of begs for something bigger than this little story. The script, though, mostly features a rotating stable of goons posturing at each other. It’s occasionally punctuated with some rather Zahler-esque gore, like some shattered kneecaps or a guy’s face getting shredded at knifepoint. Some additional gore fun is to be had from the local preacher, Wilder, also a former ne’er-do-well, played by Garret Dillahunt, who goes a bit broader. MacDowell tries to ham it up too, but it’s such a thankless role, something like a cast-off from a Sons of Anarchy episode.

The climactic action, thankfully, recovers the film in its home stretch, with a sprawling shootout on Big Cat’s palatial estate, with satisfying bloodshed, some angry attack dogs, and nice tactical geography. But, as usual with this strain of thriller, those scenes of violence seem to be the only thing that excites the filmmakers, let alone the audience. The emotional beats are perfunctory, the characters generic, and the narrative predictable. Nobody here seems to have anything in which to really invest besides eventually landing a spot on Netflix’s top ten for a couple of weeks.

DIRECTOR: Eshom & Ian Nelms;  CAST: Orlando Bloom, Andie MacDowell, Garret Dillahunt, Brian Geraghty;  DISTRIBUTOR: Magnolia Pictures;  IN THEATERS: February 23;  RUNTIME: 1 hr. 51 min.