Movie Review: ‘Red Right Hand’

Film

Orlando Bloom in 'Red Right Hand,' a Magnolia Pictures release.

Orlando Bloom in ‘Red Right Hand,’ a Magnolia Pictures release. © Red Right Hand Productions LLC, Steve Squall. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

In theaters and on VOD February 23rd is ‘Red Right Hand,’ starring Orlando Bloom, Scott Haze, Andie MacDowell, Garret Dillahunt, Brian Geraghty, and Chapel Oaks.

Related Article: Garret Dillahunt Talks ‘Red Right Hand’ and Working with Orlando Bloom

Initial Thoughts

Directing duo Ian and Eshom Nelms’ previous outing, ‘Fatman,’ was a flawed yet original – and often amusing – reinvention of the Santa Claus myth, shot through with humor and cynicism. The Nelms play it straight this time around, telling a grim story of a family fighting to stay alive in a town overrun and corrupted by a psychotic drug lord. The movie overcomes its ‘direct-to-VOD’ imprimatur by being both surprisingly heartfelt and anchored by a strong performance from Orlando Bloom.

Story and Direction

Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms, co-directors of 'Red Right Hand,' a Magnolia Pictures release.

(L to R) Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms, co-directors of ‘Red Right Hand,’ a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Cash (Orlando Bloom) is a former criminal who has worked to escape that life while also staying sober and taking care of his recently widowed, still-grieving brother Finney (Scott Haze) and his niece Savannah (Chapel Oaks). The three live quietly on Finney’s late wife’s farm, which Finney has unfortunately kept afloat by taking a loan from Big Cat (Andie MacDowell), a ruthless local drug lord.

Big Cat has an iron grip on their rural Kentucky community, including its banks and law enforcement, as well as the meth labs buried deep in the woods around the area. She’s also Cash’s former employer, and in an attempt to settle Finney’s account before Cat comes after the farm and his family, Cash agrees to perform three tasks for Cat that pull him back into his previous life. But Cash also knows that Cat won’t stop there, and he’s forced to make his own plans to save the farm and his family without raising Cat’s suspicions.

‘Red Right Hand’ spins out this tight if somewhat predictable story in lean, economical fashion, and directors Ian and Eshom Nelms (‘Small Town Crime’) manage to pull off both some strikingly lovely images of the landscape in which the story is set – where natural beauty sits right next to grinding poverty – as well as a steadily building sense of dread. You know where this story is going for the most part, but the Nelms still tighten the screws in suspenseful fashion and add a few unpredictable wrinkles to the story that raise the stakes even higher.

Garret Dillahunt in 'Red Right Hand,' a Magnolia Pictures release.

Garret Dillahunt in ‘Red Right Hand,’ a Magnolia Pictures release. © Red Right Hand Productions LLC, Steve Squall. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

We’ve seen the story before – reformed bad guy gets pulled back into his old life against his wishes, with his soul in the balance – but there is enough detail about Cash and his family, and the community in which they live, to make one care about what happens and make the violent payoff feel earned. While one could question the morality of seemingly pious if troubled folks like Cash, his family, and a surprise ally – whose third-act involvement in the proceedings, to be fair, feels a bit forced and out of the blue – engaging in vigilante justice, that’s an argument for another movie.

‘Red Right Hand’ touches on that idea, and also touches on the social conditions that set up rural communities like this for destruction at the hands of the drug trade, but only glancingly. This is a B-movie crime thriller, a bit of a throwback to movies like this that proliferated in the ‘70s, and on that level it works pretty well.

Playing Against Type

Orlando Bloom in 'Red Right Hand,' a Magnolia Pictures release.

Orlando Bloom in ‘Red Right Hand,’ a Magnolia Pictures release. © Red Right Hand Productions LLC, Steve Squall. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Whatever happened to Orlando Bloom? Coming off ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchises in the 2000s, he was being positioned as the next big action star and dream hunk at the same time. But his career has sputtered since, exemplified by a disappointingly stiff turn in last year’s ‘Gran Turismo.’

‘Red Right Hand,’ however, is another matter. From his accent to his grizzled appearance, the British actor pulls off a character that could have been a Southern stereotype but ends up showing more range and depth of feeling than a movie like this usually provides. The boyish charm of his Legolas is long gone, and Cash’s conflicted nature – he knows what will happen once he gets mixed up with Cat again but is resigned to do what he must do – is believably portrayed. Bloom also sells the action scenes quite well, fighting with rugged determination yet still vulnerable to pain and injury.

Andie MacDowell in 'Red Right Hand,' a Magnolia Pictures release.

Andie MacDowell in ‘Red Right Hand,’ a Magnolia Pictures release. © Red Right Hand Productions LLC, Steve Squall. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

While Bloom’s work is more subtle than one might expect, Andie MacDowell – long a presence in rom-coms and ensemble dramas – goes for all-out villainy here with a big performance that borders on camp, and occasionally dips into it. But she also provides a wildly sinister complement to the more grounded work done by Bloom, Scott Haze as Finney, and the remarkable Chapel Oaks as Savannah. The tone of her performance sometimes clashes with the overall atmosphere of the movie, but she also brings a malevolent, sadistic, and even seductive streak that keeps Big Cat unpredictable and dangerous.

Final Thoughts

Orlando Bloom in 'Red Right Hand,' a Magnolia Pictures release.

Orlando Bloom in ‘Red Right Hand,’ a Magnolia Pictures release. © Red Right Hand Productions LLC, Steve Squall. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Let’s make no mistake: ‘Red Right Hand’ is very much what they used to call a B-movie, and is now the kind of picture that may get a cursory, limited theatrical release before showing up on your favorite VOD and streaming platforms. But there’s no shame in that: films cut from the same cloth, like ‘Rolling Thunder’ or ‘Walking Tall,’ became cult classics long after they played the drive-in circuits of the 1970s.

And ‘Red Right Hand’ is as earnest as it can be, even if its mix of family values and vigilante violence doesn’t always sit well. You come to care about Orlando Bloom’s Cash and his family, and there’s a real sense of the stakes as they go up against Big Cat and her organization. The film may hurtle too quickly toward its conclusion and end on a pat note, but ‘Red Right Hand’ is an effective thriller nevertheless.

‘Red Right Hand’ receives 6.5 out of 10 stars.

What is the Plot of ‘Red Right Hand’?

Cash (Orlando Bloom) is trying to live an honest and quiet life taking care of his recently orphaned niece Savannah (Chapel Oaks) in the Appalachian town of Odim County. When the sadistic kingpin Big Cat (Andie MacDowell) who runs the town forces him back into her services, Cash learns he’s capable of anything – even killing – to protect the town and the only family he has left. As the journey gets harder, Cash is drawn into a nightmare that blurs the lines between good and evil.

Who is in the cast of ‘Red Right Hand’?

  • Orlando Bloom as Cash
  • Andie MacDowell as Big Cat
  • Scott Haze as Finney
  • Garret Dillahunt as Wilder
  • Mo McRae as Deputy Duke Parks
  • Brian Geraghty as Sheriff Hollister
  • Chapel Oaks as Savannah
  • Kenneth Miller as The Buck
  • Nicholas Logan as The Doe
Andie MacDowell and Brian Geraghty in 'Red Right Hand,' a Magnolia Pictures release.

(L to R) Andie MacDowell and Brian Geraghty in ‘Red Right Hand,’ a Magnolia Pictures release. © Red Right Hand Productions LLC, Steve Squall. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

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