DVD Review: Tomato Red: Blood Money

STUDIO: Indican Pictures | DIRECTOR: Juanita Wilson | CAST: Julia Garner, Jake Weary, Anna Friel, Nick Roux
RELEASE DATE: Feb. 16, 2021 | PRICE: DVD $9.96, Digital $4.99/$14.99
SPECS: NR | 112 min. | Drama thriller | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

Tomato Red: Blood Money, the latest adaptation of a Daniel Woodrell novel, is full of atmospheric “country noir” (a term he reportedly coined), but isn’t as narratively strong as its predecessors Ride With The Devil and, my personal favorite, Winter’s Bone.

Sammy Barlach (Jake Weary, TV’s Animal Kingdom) is an ex-con who drifts from one small town to the next picking up odd jobs, basically living a day-by-day reckless and unfulfilling life. When he finds himself in Southern town of Venus Holler, he falls in with a dysfunctional family that includes fiery redhead Jamalee (Emmy winner Julia Garner of TV’s Ozark), her handsomely charming brother Jason (Nick Roux, TV’s Jane by Design) and feisty matriarch Bev (Anna Friel, Limitless). Jamalee and Jason have been engaging in some small-time scams and believe Sammy may be the muscle they need to overcome their unfavorable reputation, hit the big time and get out of town for good.

Irish director Juanita Wilson (As If I Was Not There) helms her own adapted screenplay and, along with cinematographer Piers McGrail (Never Grow Old), paint a beautifully raw portrait of the rural life and the polarity between the haves and the have-nots. The build is intimate and slow, giving us time to sit with the characters and feel their desperate longing for something more. All of the actors turn in solid performances especially Garner, who continues to shine in each new role, and Friel, who takes the played out trope of a sassy hooker with a loving heart and makes it her own.

It’s when the film hits the three-quarter mark that it veers a bit off course. A tragic crime revolving around Jason’s sexuality and possible prostitution pits the family against corrupt and prejudice forces within the town. But the film hasn’t adequately established Jason behavior, how it relates to the morals of the community and what corruption is actually taking place, throwing it all off-balance. Sans a police officer who has a soft spot for Bev and a scene with a few snobby country club members, the family has few interactions with their neighbors, making them an invisible menace and deflating any drama around their decision to accept the town’s blood money and flee—or stay and fight. In turn, the gut punch of the ending doesn’t effectively land as it should.

Tomato Red: Blood Money does off some stylish filmmaking and sturdy performances, but doesn’t quite click as a cohesive, impactful crime drama.

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About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at DishDisc.com.