Movie Review: Oklahoma gangsters are all beholden to “Ida Red”

A bloody-minded B-movie of drug heists, prison, “cleaning up” and revenge, “Ida Red” is a straight-up B-movie with the some good performances and the odd good scene interrupted its funereal pacing and over-the-top violence.

There’s an outlandish lawlessness in play that makes you wonder how far down breakdown of the rule of law hole this country — or Oklahoma — has gone for any of this to be plausible.

It’s another “Variation on a Theme Introduced in ‘Animal Kingdom'” thriller with Oscar winner Melissa Leo, in a supporting role, as a criminal matriarch her kin are angling on getting their dying mother/aunt out of prison before she kicks the bucket.

The movie strides confidently out of the gate, stumbles to a halt and never quite gets up to speed as Feds and local law enforcement, “family” and loose ends mix it up and “clean up” after a tractor trailer drug hijacking goes wrong in the opening scene.

Josh Hartnett and Frank Grillo play son nephew Wyatt and Dallas, masterminds of a late night Interstate heist of a Federal pill shipment in which people are killed, and members of their gang aren’t reliable enough to leave alive to keep it all under wraps.

Ida Red (Leo) is able to track what they’re up to from prison, offer her “clean this up” advice and sit back, sickly and perhaps not all that mentally capable of weighing what she’s just suggested.

Because whatever pangs Dallas (Grillo) may have about snuffing out a surviving truck driver who has a Marine Corps Veteran cap, he’s a sadistic piece of work. He’ll cover this face with a pillow, shoot bystanders without compunction or regret.

With a Fed (William Forsythe) and Wyatt’s cop brother-in-law (George Carroll) breathing down their necks, how is this crime family going to tidy up, cash in and free Ida Red from prison before she breathes her last behind bars?

There’s a 15 year-old niece (Sofia Hublitz from “Ozark”) who’s starting to go wrong. Wyatt’s sister Jeannie (Deborah Ann Woll of “True Blood” and “Escape Room”) may be freaking out. She’s the one married to the cop. Wyatt? He just shrugs it off.

“It’s in the blood.”

As the bodies pile up, interrupted by this or that misstep by the teen, kidnapping a parole board member and shrugging off law enforcement’s timid inquiries, “Ida Red” teeters to and fro, never quite finding its footing and going completely off the rails in the finale.

That comes after the homage to the epic shootout in “Heat,” and some choice acting by Woll, Hartnett, Leo and Grillo — who each have one well-written scene to chew up and play with gusto.

Writer-director John Swab (“Run With the Hunted”) finds a pithy line here, a scene Grillo can chew up and spit out there. But he has no sense of pace. Genre pictures, thin on surprises and big on grit, sink or swim on their forward momentum. This Tulsa-filmed B-movie gangland thriller never has that.

“Ida Red” is good enough that we can see what the cast saw in it, and bad enough to wish another writer had taken a swipe at a rewrite (the ending is awful) and maybe producer-Swab had hunted up a flashier director — even one fresh out of film school — to helm it.

Rating: R, graphic violence, profanity

Cast: Josh Hartnett, Sofia Hublitz, Deborah Ann Woll, William Forsythe, George Carroll, Melissa Leo and Frank Grillo

Credits: Scripted and directed by John Swab. A Saban Films release.

Running time: 1:51

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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