River Runs Red

When a judge’s son is killed in an unjustified police officer killing, Judge Charles Coleman (Taye Diggs) becomes conflicted in trying to get justice for his deceased son from the same men he works with. Charles goes after those that are responsible with the help from a veteran detective (John Cusack) and another father (George Lopez) mourning his son’s murder.

River Runs Red covers a very serious issue going on in America which is officer brutality and shooting deaths of unarmed victims. The film takes the controversial subject and turns it into a dramatic thriller, one that feels like two different films.

For the first two acts of the film, the story is heavy on set up. It’s filled with dramatics and conflicts with just about every character in the film. After Charles’s son gets killed by two officers, his relationship with his wife begins to crumble under the stress of finding justice. Charles is then forced to choose between his family or his career of being a judge. When Charles chooses his family, his co-workers go against him by attempting to cover up the murder.

“…a judge’s son is killed in an unjustified police officer killing…”

Charles has a couple of run-ins with the mayor (Jou Jou Papailler), and these run-ins feel cheesy. On two different occasions, Charles confronts the mayor in which things get a little heated. After both confrontations, Charles leaves the room, and the mayor will say something a villain from an 80s flick would say. While I’m on the subject of cheesiness, there are a couple more scenes that were almost just as cringe-worthy.

The film attempts an intimate montage that just feels out of place. Charles and his wife are showing some affection, which had been absent for a while in their relationship, and it’s backed up by some R & B music that puts the icing on the cake. Another scene that made me almost facepalm myself was when Charles and George Lopez’s character, Javier, team up. Just beforehand, the two having a screaming match in which Lopez’s character pulls a gun on Charles. They then start talking about being “gangsta” and the scene transitions into Javier pulling a tarp of a souped-up sports car where the two just stare at it for a few seconds before becoming vigilantes. It’s a moment which should amp up the audience, but I felt the opposite. This is about the time that the film starts feeling like a whole other film.

“…a pretty good story with a cast that makes the film work.”

In the third act, the film takes a huge turn in going from pure drama to an all-out thriller. The third act is Charles and Javier hunting down the cops that killed their son which involves violence, police chases, and shootouts. It kind of comes out of nowhere even though Charles hints at doing everything he can to find justice for his son. He apparently will do everything.

Despite some questionable scenes and dialogue, it does have some good acting. River Runs Red’s star-studded cast adds a whole lot to the film, as it should. Taye Diggs and George Lopez surprised me. It’s been a while since Diggs had a role as the main character in a project, but Diggs held the film together. When it comes to George Lopez, I have never been much of a fan of his, and the thought of Lopez in a dramatic role was amusing to me. With that being said, Lopez is impressive. He was convincing and didn’t bank on cracking jokes. Yes, Lopez made maybe two jokes in the film, but his role is played with all seriousness. It’s something I never expected from George Lopez, so I’ll give credit where credit is due.

River Runs Red is a film that is about a very serious issue but tends to sometimes take a campy approach to it. I could have done without a few of the scenes, but it was a pretty good story with a cast that makes the film work.

River Runs Red (2018) Directed and written by Wes Miller. Starring Taye Diggs, John Cusack, George Lopez, Luke Hemsworth, Gianni Capaldi, Jennifer Tao, Jou Jou Papailler, Briana Evigan, RJ Mitte.

6 out of 10 stars

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