“Red Dot” is a savage if not wholly satisfying “flip-the-script” stalked in the wilderness thriller whose cleverness comes from its subtext.
We’ve seen scads of these “slickers in the wild” stories since “Deliverance” and “Southern Comfort.” Sometimes, they begin with a provocation. Often they don’t, with kid-sacrifice cults or rural rednecks robbing innocent passing travelers and the like as the “motivation.” Not here.
We’ve heard the vacationing young Stockholm couple (Nanna Blondell, Anastasios Soulis) make cracks about how folks are in “The North.” We get a hint of the pickup trucks, beards and firearms culture. And as Nadja (Blondell) is Black, racism rears its head.
But when they’re on the run, fleeing hunters they figure they crossed when they dinged their pick-up-up at the filling station, the judgmental college grads have a dilemma.
When everybody you encounter is bearded, rough around the edges and armed, who can you trust? How can you tell friend from murderous foe?
Neither hotheaded Nadja nor half-passive David (Soulis) says it, but damned if the viewer doesn’t think it.
“Well, they all look alike.”
That’s an ingenious inversion in the formula of Alain Darborg (he also directed) and Per Dickson’s script. Rushing to judgement, leaning on stereotypes and fearing what those stereotypes have taught you isn’t going to do anybody any favors.
That big twist dresses up a formulaic thriller that telegraphs its punches once it moves on from David’s proposal and the bickering marriage that’s set up in the opening act.
Maybe a trip to “Bear Valley,” a little cross-country skiing and camping with Boris the dog will set things to right. Maybe Nadja will get around to telling David that she’s pregnant.
That last paragraph sets up a strictly pro-forma thriller where that first “Dueling Banjos” moment doesn’t actually need banjos for us to know what’s coming.
Winter, remote Sweden, “Bear” valley, locals with what they figure is a murderous beef or two with the couple. Tick off everything in your mind that could happen to put them on the run through the snow, and that will happen to them as they run, and you won’t be disappointed.
The performances are solid, with Blondell (“Sisters in Arms,” and she’s in the upcoming “Black Widow”) giving a furious edge to being a Black med student in lily white Sweden.
The best scene is the one with the first “Red Dot” in it, but other action beats are handled well enough to pass muster.
And the twists only pay off if you let yourself fall into the same trap our hunted Stockholmies do. You will.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence, disturbing images, profanity
Cast: Nanna Blondell, Anastasios Soulis
Credits: Directed by Alain Darborg, script by Alain Darborg, Per Dickson. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:25