Kindly old Northwest widower Brian Cox wakes up early one Sunday, feeds his dog Red, then drives out to his favorite quiet fishing spot for a day of idling. In the late afternoon, three snotty teenagers emerge from the woods brandishing a shotgun, and ask if Cox has any money. He tries to placate them, but their ringleader, Noel Fisher, shoots Red. When Cox tracks down Fisher's wealthy father (Tom Sizemore) and tries to extract some restitution, Sizemore refuses "to do the right thing," so Cox exhausts his legal options, then plans his own justice.
Norwegian director Trygve Allister Diesen and cult horror helmer Lucky McKee—working from a script by Stephen Susco—adapt Jack Ketchum's suspense novel Red into a low-boil revenge drama about people who never asked for trouble, and don't handle it well when trouble comes their way. Cox gets hassled, but then starts doing the hassling, showing up at the doors of his tormenters' parents, quietly pleading with them to take a responsibility they can't be bothered with. In some ways, he's still reeling over the death of his wife and sons—lost in another senseless act of violence—but as he trails Fisher and his cronies, trying to goad them into a public assault that will land them in jail, he never seems out of control or crazily obsessed. He seems like an agent of righteousness, trying—and repeatedly failing—to avenge all cosmic wrong.
Red's dialogue is a bit blunt, its characters are too broadly outlined, and the situation verges on the ludicrous at times, especially in the way these dumb kids keep committing terrible crimes without leaving any evidence. But the movie isn't meant to be an exercise in realism. Along with Shotgun Stories, Felon, and a few other recent "indie pulps," Red is part of a wave of low-budget genre films that turn injustice into an abstract force ripping decent folk apart. The film is keen on detail, from the scratches on the door where Red used to ask to go out to the isolation of Cox's rural home, which stands like a three-story, strictly rectangular monolith in the middle of a rolling plain. Red is a gripping reminder that bad things can happen, even in houses so solidly built.