It often seems the case at times with a lot of action fan sites that everything made within the genre nearly always gets the kind of breathless reception and coverage that filmmakers aspire for. Indeed, invariably, not every filmmaker deserves it, and certainly there are a few directors whose works I’ve covered in the past who’ve gotten off with a curve, if not simply for the fact that filmmaking – especially action movies – is hard as shit.
The rehearsals. The training and constant rigmarole of physical upkeep. Budgeting and overruns. Scheduling. Equipment. Location scouting and securing. All the intricacies that filmmakers generally face are certainly things you can imagine may be even more difficult for folks working the independent film scene, banking on the inspiration they share for their craft and much ado with simply learning-by-doing process of it all.
The good news, of course, is if you do it long enough, stay devoted and steer your creativity in a way that improves your work, you get really fucking good at it. As a consumer and someone who doesn’t work in the entertainment field and knows only what he sees on video and in movies and learns from the lips and keyboard strokes of filmmakers every once in a while, this is just an analysis I’m making in the wake of all the action shorts I’ve watched and written about in the last fifteen years, seven of which have been on this site.
Graze over the history of some of that coverage on here, and you’ll eventually stumble onto Beau Fowler’s name, and if you’re a fan of the genre and have an eye for the potential talents of up-and-comers like him, granted, it’ll be one of the proudest stumbles you’ll ever make. Sci-fi short, Chameleon, was one of the first projects I’d seen of his credits following a proof-of-concept in which he starred opposite actress Zara Phythian for a project that unfortunately never saw the light of day.
Over the years though, as I kept up with his endeavors at Ki Films, namely with projects like Express Delivery and thriller concept, Three Days Of Dark, Fowler still had his hands on other action roles in films like Jesse Johnson’s Avengement, Paul Raschid’s The Complex: Lockdown, and David Newton’s feature debut, The Take Down, and even the third and final installment of Bryan Larkin’s contract killer shortfilm series, Ross Boyask’s Dead End: Dead Man Walking.
Consider all these projects and you’re looking at someone who’s not only kept his foot on the gas, but has managed thusfar to control the trajectory long enough (even during a deadly global pandemic that would have otherwise been career-crippling) that his journey with new action short, Red, now carries him forward with the spoken acclaim and vidication of up to sixty-one awards throughout the virtual festivals in the past year or so.
Why so many?
Well, it’s just as I stated four paragraphs ago. Fowler has been at this craft in mutiple aspects on both sides of the lens for close to fifteen years. Some directors work just as long only to shamelessly come out of the other end with some of the most ill-conceived, creatively myopic results ever shot on film; I’m saying it like this because it needs to be said. Because there are film professionals like Fowler who are consummate professionals with what they do and are provenly apt at it, arriving to a place where other filmmakers can only dream to be, while making that hustle in the independent market.
That hustle never ends, and the proof lies within in the eighteen minute action short, Red, as Fowler takes the wheel for an entrenching, almost gut wrenching tale as a man forced to fight tooth and nail out of a nightmare scenario you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
Fowler portrays Danny, a man lost about his wits after waking up in an ice bath, in a dirty, dank washroom, tubed, gagged and stitched right where one of his kidneys used to be. Disoriented and briefly passing out only to be sat back upright by one of his captors, there are only a few brief pauses before Danny switches into bezerker fight-or-flight mode, dispatching one thug and taking a few nurses hostage in the process.
As Red moves along, the film flickers back and forth recounting Danny’s desperate efforts to get his daughter, Tally (Evie Templeton) the transplant she needs, eventually consulting with Dr. Verenich (Ian Reddington) moments before she’s escorted away for what looks like will be her imminent treatment. Switching back to the present, we see Danny forced to fight for his life nearly every step of the way, from the hired goons to the RNs flustered by Danny’s covert-style blitz, so as to realize for them just how way in over their heads they really are, no matter their reasons for even being there. Red doesn’t dance much around this aspect either, and it definitely doesn’t need to, in this instance.
Treading quietly between rooms, alas, it’s not until he turns the wrong corner just as Dr. Leung (Jennifer Lim) is about to leave a room full of goons and orderlies keeping a shrouded cadaver company. The experience by now is more than emotional for Danny who is patently worried about Tally moments after spotting her favorite teddy bear, and just short of thinking the covered-up corpse on the table surrounded by henchmen mere feet away from him might possibly be his beloved child.
Quick to exclaim “Don’t damage the merchandise!” to the octet of goons behind her, she makes way for the onslaught of assholes bent on snatching the life out of a clearly unhinged Danny, all of them eager to make bloodied and brutalized goofies of themselves in fine fuck-around-and-find-out fashion, thinking somewhere to the affect of “Yeah! Strength in numbers, biyatch!”…
Yeah.. nah. Danny is about that life. In this moment. Nothing else matters. Lost in the wilderness of his own madness and armed with pure rage, his particular set of soldiering skills and whatever is in arm’s reach, the action by now delves into complete, stab-happy close-quarters calamity, the likes of which would even have Gareth and Iko jizzing. It’s beautiful. Feral. Simple. Bullshitless. And totally appropriate.
The high point here is just when Danny comes face-to-face with Leung who, for what its worth, is cog in the machine just like everyone else there, and the biggest difference between Danny’s attention to her compared to everyone else responsible for the inhuman hell-on-earth conditions of that building is what she does toward the end, when Danny finally comes face to face with the man who put him there.
It’s no strain to see most short films as potential proof of concepts, even if they’re just 2-minute practice runs of folks on camera in their element. I’ve watched a lot of these over the years, and I take pride in being a part of the crowd that relishes in the talents of folks like Newton and Fowler who are keen on both drama and action on an equal footing, and knowing that for the work they’re doing, they’re applying themselves to the best of their ability. There aren’t a lot of people like Fowler, either – a LOT of them have the potential to be, and some do eventually go on to flourish in their careers in some form or another. To be on a level like this, though, takes a lot of work, devotion and acumen, and time.
There’s a lot that’s put into the kind of savviness it takes to make a project like Red come to life, from the ways the hows and whys certain characters are written, to the tone and pace at which they are introduced in the story that’s being told. For an eighteen-minute proof like Red to work, Fowler cuts the fat at every angle, sticking to the immediacy of every nail-biting moment we follow Danny’s chilling excursion from his dormant bath prison down the morbid halls and blood-soaked rooms where bodies once layed bare, and the cut-throat action scenes in between.
What’s more is the level of intensity in this film and how it all radiates from Fowler’s performance against the gruesome backdrop. Judging by the synopsis, we know he’s had military training, which explains why he’s able to rip a pair of shears and start filleting whole humans. The brilliance here is that he’s not necessarily stipulated as a soldier, which instantly leaves the door open for the viewer to discover this as a possibility among other possibilities: ex-cop, ex-fighter, reformed killer-turned family man who might have had some training, etc…
Eh, solider will do too. I like it.
While Fowler ponders what to make of the forthcoming feature for Red, it’s imperative to remember that projects like these aren’t easy to manifest when the constant threat of piracy is always looming, thus, the importance of supporting independent film through legitimate means. As the world continues to mitigate a pandemic, and even as we’re seeing slow-but-certain progress on vaccines, film productions now have to abide by new guidelines in order to avoid getting shutdown and having everyone sent home.
This, on top of budgets that can range anywhere from zero to five or even seven or eight figures, the cost of pandemic insurance may easily be half that. Roland Emmerich’s newest movie rounds out to $136 million dollars and dares to share space with the term “independent movie”, and it cost the production between $5-to-$6 million dollars just to insure cast and crew members were routinely tested with everyone practicing social distancing.
Tedious and teething quarantimes be damned, this is an industry wholly worth the hustle for folks like Fowler and Newton, with Red exuding every bit of reason for a production like this to flourish. You might even say that the dozens of awards this film won in the past year would speak for themselves if this was all it took.
I don’t know. I don’t know how it all works. I’m just an outsider who gets to share a table with some of these amazing people once in a blue moon before jettisonning back into the slow-burn pace of everyday normal life before going to bed at 10pm because I’m too old to stay up late for anything more than a YouTube rabbit hole of Chillhop music and Bob Ross videos to imminently fall asleep to.
Beyond that, all I know is how much I appreciate a good thing when I see it. Lord knows if and/or when this shortfilm will be unleashed to the world for consumption should it be so, and if not, it’s probably a good sign that perhaps it’s all part of the process. Take my speculations with a grain of salt here, but I seriously hope in the year since projects like Chameleon and Express Delivery that Red is just the beginning of something that takes shape for Newton and Fowler.
Check out Newton’s feature debut, The Take Down, wherever films are sold and streamed, and keep both of these guys on your radar as they work to move this concept forward. Where they see Red, I see precisely zero fucking excuses not to root for them.