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Slightly Red Handed

Critic:

Joe Beck

|

Posted on:

2 Mar 2022

Film Reviews
Slightly Red Handed
Directed by:
James Hastings
Written by:
James Hastings
Starring:
Wayne O. Reid, Adam Tucker, Katie McKenna
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The western genre has been enjoying something of a revival over the past decade or so. Films like ‘Django Unchained’ and ‘The Hateful Eight’ from Quentin Tarantino have given the genre a more pop-infused tone, whilst the likes of ‘3:10 to Yuma’ and ‘Hell or High Water’ have maintained the traditional dusty feel of an old classic like ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’. The short film ‘Slightly Red Handed’ certainly feels more like the former films in tone.

 

‘Slightly Red Handed’ tells the story of a retired magician, Carson Avery (Wayne O. Reid), who has now settled into his ranch in Wyoming. One dark, stormy night an anxious reverend , Jericho Pile (Adam Tucker), turns up at his door searching for a miracle. He doesn’t get it. Tensions between the two come to the fore after the true reason for the reverend’s wife being ‘ill’ is revealed. As with all great westerns, the theme of redemption is overarching.

 

Redemption is relevant to all three characters, including the reverend’s wife Dorothy Pile (Katie McKenna), but all in different ways. Our protagonist Carson Avery seems to be searching for redemption - it’s never explicitly stated but the character’s morals and the bodies hanging outside suggest that there’s something in his past driving his search for salvation. Ironic then that it should be a reverend who acts as the main antagonist, and the character most in need of atonement. Can his actions be redeemed? His incessant begging and bout of tears suggest a profound regret; the drawing of his gun suggests otherwise. Then, and perhaps most interestingly there his wife Dorothy, who is faced in the end with the need for redemption.

 

In the spirit of redemption it is only right to mention another major influence on the renaissance of the western, not a film, but a video game - ‘Red Dead Redemption’. The vast popularity of those games have undoubtedly spurred on the rediscovery of the western, largely due to their massive scope and engaging stories. Elements of those games - in particular ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ are also evident in ‘Slightly Red Handed’. For starters, the short takes place in 1503, at the dusk of the wild west, the same as the much-acclaimed video game. Furthermore, the character of Carson Avery resembles the two protagonists John Marston and Arthur Morgan from the games in his desire to retire and rest - and his inability to escape trouble.

 

However, if there’s one thing you can take away from any western, its that trouble always finds its way back to you. That is no different in ‘Slightly Red Handed’, where our one-eyed jack is confronted with the priest. The issue is, that at times the film feels extremely gimmicky, in particular when the band pops up singing an old-timey cowboy tune. The song is good and fits the rather bleak mood of the film, but it instantly loses its cinematic feel when the band are show singing away in their cowboy gear. At that moment, a long, lingering shot on the ranch, on Carson, or just on the stars in the sky would have accompanied the song better.

 

The other, though relatively minor problem with the film is that it suffers from bouts of mumbling from actors, in particular Adam Tucker as the reverend. This is particularly annoying because otherwise Tucker’s performance is phenomenal, portraying a believably corrupt churchman who’s soul interest is self-salvation. There are moments when he resembles Paul Dano in his mannerisms and facial expressions - it is a very good performance. Wayne O. Reid is imposing and charismatic as the retired old magician, working well with Tucker and creating an all round likeable character in just 15 minutes. Katie McKenna has a lot less to do, but when she does do it she is also charming in her own way.

 

Aside from the inexplicable cuts to the band, the direction from James Hastings is impressive as well, creating an atmospheric and believable setting from the outset. The way the camera is set up on the table as Carson and the reverend have a little, let’s say, talk is nothing you haven’t seen before, yet it isn’t utilised often enough in shorts, so it’s a pleasant shot.

In truth, it’s a story which could be expanded to a feature length version, and yet it tells a whole and complete story in just 15 minutes. By the end you’ll be wanting to see a lot more of Carson Avery, who is an enigmatic and engaging character that deserves a chance on a bigger screen. The film has its faults and so the title ‘Slightly Red Handed’ is fitting - it would have gotten away with the perfect short if it weren’t for the drops of blood on its hand from the bizarre cuts to the band.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film