The Red Machine of the title is a new cryptology machine being used by the Japanese in the 1930s in order to cipher messages to keep their communications secret from other countries, i.e. America. Of course the U.S Navy have other plans and enlist the help of criminal Eddie Doyle (Donal Thomas-Cappello), a master safe cracker who happened to get caught on his last job and is offered freedom in exchange for this task. Eddie is teamed up with notorious Navy Lieutenant F.Ellis Coburn (Lee Perkins), a man of few words who doesn’t seem like an obvious colleague to start with. Their mission is to gain access to the actual machine in order to understand its workings and enable them to decipher the codes. What follows is a confusingly simple task that is made overly complicated by the film trying to be clever but not succeeding. This was the most disappointing film of the festival.
For an obviously low budget film, with set pieces that are deliberately simple and almost fake looking, the characters and plot needed to be strong and engaging. Unfortunately the characters are weak and the attempt at a backstory for the Lieutenant is rather vague and diluted. The central plot is actually very simple but seems to think it is highly complex and the subplots are flimsy and unnecessary. Perhaps the most irritating thing is the fact it is not the least bit aesthetically pleasing. The clothes look like cheap and basic costumes, the lighting is continually the same throughout the film and the camerawork and shot compositions are inexpressive and dull. Overall it is unimaginatively created.
I am a huge fan of old fashioned B-movies and when I read this was an homage to them, particularly heist capers, I was very excited. This was hugely disappointing. I can see what they were trying to do but for many reasons it didn’t work, it wasn’t clever and it wasn’t funny. Too much of the plot relied on pieces falling miraculously into place and everything being linked. It was not remotely believable, I understand that we are supposed to use our imagination to a degree but there was barely anything to work with, it felt like a terrible theatre play that had been filmed.
There were huge plot holes and a significant part of the story relied on ahead of their time cameras that could take a seemingly infinite amount of photos. For me I cannot invest in something where I cannot suspend my disbelief (if that is required) and therefore The Red Machine completely failed. For a film that was under the usual one hour and thirty minutes it felt incredibly long and really dragged in places. It never felt exciting and I would not recommend it.
There are a few nicely observed moments such as when Eddie is trying to guess what the F in the Lieutenant’s name stands for, but these are generally towards the beginning of the film and it quickly flounders after these. Eddie is supposed to be a cheeky charismatic crook but the dialogue and the acting lets him down. The Lieutenant is quite well played but neither character is that likeable. This film should have been full of witty dialogue but it was flat and unremarkable.
For a film that relies on characters and dialogue, it does not create a single memorable character or line. It fails to recreate the world it is supposed to be playing homage to and it is dull and lifeless. A huge disappointment.
Directors: Stephanie Argy and Alec Boehm
Cast: Lee Perkins, Donal Thoms-Cappello, Meg Brogan
Runtime: 84 mins