The Red Man opens at dusk, with an establishing shot of the two roads that lead in and out of a gated suburban community. The shot lingers, allowing two cars to enter before cutting to the next scene. It is an aptly resonant shot that is reflective of the film’s impressive cinematography, and does a great job at establishing the film’s theme of duality; dream and reality, fact and fiction. This opening instantly characterises the way in which writer and director Jimmie Gonzalez excels in the use of imagery as a means of furthering the film’s plot and its themes.
In the subsequent sequence, we are introduced to the main character Evan Gough (Daniel David Diamond), a professional DJ who finds his family murdered and his mother being sexually assaulted by a home invader. It is then revealed that this is a nightmare he relives any time he sleeps, due to a home invasion fourteen years earlier that his family survived only because Evan intervened, killing the perpetrator.
Evan reluctantly takes medication to keep the dreams at bay, prescribed by his psychiatrist Dr. Verde (Daniel Faraldo). Over the course of the plot however, Evan begins to suspect Verde is complicit with the drug company, engaging in a trial where Evan and the tenants of his building are the unsuspecting subjects.
From there, the plot unfolds in a manner I can only compare to the works of David Lynch, an undeniable influence on Gonzalez’s style. Like Lynch, Gonzalez progressively builds upon the surrealist elements, allowing the images to do a lot of the work, as opposed to drowning the viewer in exposition. As Evan delves deeper into the conspiracy, the viewer is ultimately left to discern dream from reality.
However, while Gonzalez effectively uses imagery to his advantage, his script lacks a natural circumstantial flow at times. For instance, while Lynch would typically allow characters to cryptically divulge information that adds to the mystery of his work, Gonzalez’s characters may enter a scene and noticeably spit out information as a means of advancing the plot. In addition to this, the acting can be uneven, and less frequently there is a jarring shot that removed me from the experience (though not to take away from the film’s great cinematography as a whole).
Ultimately, Jimmie Gonzalez’s The Red Man is a mind-bending work that warrants more than one viewing, and, despite its issues, justifies this in the way the film is structured. The plot pivots a bit too much in its concluding act, preventing the final twist from fully sinking in with your first viewing, but that is not to say it did not resonate with me. The conclusion is a fitting summation of all the plot elements Gonazalez had been building up to that point, even if, like other aforementioned elements of the film, it does not always strike the right notes.