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Natasha Martin tunes high-end sports cars for a living. And when hip-hop impresario Infamous drops off his Ford GT at her shop for some additional horsepower, Natasha (who's a world-class driver and daughter of a deceased stock-car legend) is swept into the world of illegal street racing ... and into the cutthroat competition of millionaires gambling their fortunes on each race's outcome.
The players—Infamous, Hollywood producer Jerry Brecken, and an eccentric named Michael—don't mess around with nitrous-equipped Nissans and Mitsubishis, à la The Fast and the Furious. No, the weapons of these men's warfare are the fastest production cars on earth: Ferrari's Enzo, Mercedes-Benz's SLR McLaren, Lamborghini's Murciélago, Saleen's S7, Porsche's Carrera GT. Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the desert in between are their playgrounds.
Michael's driver is his thrill-seeking nephew, Jason, who loves nothing more than fast cars and fast women. When he's killed in a race against Natasha (Infamous has drafted her to drive for him), things go from merely reckless and illegal to completely out of control.
Eager to avenge Jason's death is his brother, Carlo, a gung-ho soldier who's just back from Iraq. But the target isn't Natasha, it's Michael, whose fortune Carlo suspects has come from criminal activities. Before Carlos can exact his vengeance, though, the obsessive Michael kidnaps Natasha—setting up an explosive finale and, of course, one final race.
Carlo tries to warn Jason not to get entangled in Michael's shady affairs. The soldier rescues Natasha and another person Michael has kidnapped. When Infamous offers Natasha big money and a recording contract (she's the lead singer in an aspiring rock band) to drive for him, one of her bandmates tells her, "Don't do it for the money, don't do it for us. Do it because it's what you're born to do." (Good advice, except Natasha's choosing to do something illegal; more on that later.)
Michael is a spiritualist who regularly spouts his jumbled worldview, a blend of New Age and Eastern beliefs. He tells Jason, "The universe conspires to bring all of this to you." Michael informs a captive Natasha she can eat anything she wants except meat, because, "Animals are sentient creatures, just like you and me. We don't eat things that have faces." He affirms reincarnation when he says, "Life's a b--ch, and then you die. And then you're born again."
Michael tells a group of his henchmen that the American dream consists of selling people stuff they don't need: "Guns, cars, sex, even God." He repeatedly tells others, "The meaning of life is letting go," counsel he hasn't internalized himself.
Perhaps serving as nothing more than a yin to Michael's yang, Natasha's mom and Carlo both wear crosses that are easily visible.
What do exotic cars and egomaniac millionaires naturally attract? It's hard to know for sure where the camera lens lingers more in this film: on the sensuous shapes of the world's finest sports cars or the fantastical figures of the women clinging to the men who own them. Over and over and over again, we see the bodies of these objectified, nameless (and often faceless women) as shots focus intentionally on cleavages, bottoms, legs and short skirts; women in bikinis and lingerie, in hot tubs and washing cars in slow motion, in their underwear having pillow-fights as men watch with drinks and cigars in hand. The message? Mindless, half-naked Barbie-like nymphs exist solely to please monied men. Hugh Hefner would love this stuff.
Natasha and her mother are the only females in the film depicted as anything other than Playboy-Bunny-like boy toys. Even so, Natasha's generally skimpy outfits barely set her apart. In one scene we see her awakening naked and only partially covered by a bed sheet (her bare back and side, including a breast barely covered by her arm, are visible). It seems she and Carlo have spent the night in a hotel room with separate twin beds (we also see him shirtless). Their comfortableness being partially clothed in the same room could imply they had sex the evening before. Later, however, they share what seems to be a first kiss.
Other sexual content includes a reference to a Viagra-style drug, Infamous repeatedly kissing a woman's cleavage, a "starter girl" who uses her shirt as a green flag, and mentions of alcohol as a means to sex. Michael shakes a bottle of champagne in a way that implies masturbation. At least one song by Natasha's band includes sexualized lyrics. And there are many other references to sexual encounters and sexual body parts.
Going into Redline, I expected violence related to car races gone awry. And it abounds here. Multiple spectacular accidents hurl cars through the air, off cliffs, into parked cars, under semi trailers, etc. Jason is killed after his Lamborghini dramatically gets lift and flies perhaps 50 feet into the air before colliding with the concrete, catching fire and exploding. (He's half conscious with a trickle of blood on his forehead before the car blows.) It's implied that another driver is killed in a separate accident. It's no wonder—most of the races end with high-speed collisions.
More problematically, several races take place on open public roads and streets, with the drivers weaving in and out of oncoming traffic. Predictably, these contests yield collateral damage as innocent drivers swerve into each other to avoid the reckless racers.
The violence I wasn't expecting had to do with the film's hand-to-hand combat. Carlo gets into serious fistfights with men trying to steal his car and an obnoxious patron at a Las Vegas club. Michael's chief goon grabs and squeezes Jason's crotch to "motivate" him to race well. Carlo's confrontation of Michael results in multiple martial arts-style melees; he hits, kicks, bludgeons and hurls his criminal uncle's henchmen.
Several people are tossed through glass and/or into walls. Natasha's mom is kidnapped, bound and thrown roughly to the floor. Shootouts occur as well, though no one is obviously hit. More ominously, it's implied that a kingpin to whom Michael owes millions cold-bloodedly shoots a bound man in the head. (We see and hear the gun.)
Crude or Profane Language
"A--" and "h---" are used most frequently, eight or more times each. Characters also say "d--n" and "b--ch." God's name is taken in vain, and the s-word is trotted out a handful of times. (If the f-word appears, it's very muffled.) Natasha gives the finger to Michael.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Drinking—mostly mixed drinks and champagne—is part and parcel of the lifestyle. Many if not most scenes where people gather include celebratory social drinking. In one, Infamous specifically mentions opening a bottle of the rap world's favorite champagne, Cristal. The most egregious drinking scene involves Carlo and Natasha each knocking down at least three shots apiece in the space of a few minutes. (None of the racers ever indulge alcohol immediately before climbing into their cars.)
Jason smokes cigarettes. Jerry smokes cigars and makes a joking reference to taking the drug Thorazine, an antipsychotic tranquilizer.
Other Negative Elements
Recklessness on the road is matched by recklessness with money as Infamous, Michael and Jerry all gamble huge sums on races. They're clearly hooked on the rush of betting, with Jerry going so far as to say, "What's a gamble if you don't gamble?" The opening onscreen bet involves whether or not Jason can make it from L.A. to Vegas in an hour and 45 minutes. (We're told it's normally a four-hour drive.) At one point, he turns the lights of his car off at night at 200 m.p.h., relying on night-vision goggles to see.
The police are mostly mocked and are virtually a non-issue in Redline. Officers bust up one race and arrest several participants and spectators while the biggest fish, Infamous, quietly slips away. Other than that, there are no legal consequences seen. Twice, racers going 200-plus pass a policeman. Law enforcement is thus depicted as an impotent joke, Smokey and the Bandit style.
Drivers never wear helmets or any protective gear other than seatbelts. Natasha cavalierly answers two phone calls while racing. The last scene finds Carlo and Natasha racing against each other "just for fun," weaving furiously in and out of traffic as they savor an "innocent" joyride.
If you'd asked me at age 14 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have given you an unusual answer: a Ferrari dealer. Thanks in part to Magnum, P.I., I'd fallen in love with little red sports cars, specifically the Ferrari 308. I loved combing through the pages of Road & Track each month (still do, actually), dreaming of what it would be like to get behind the wheel of Italy's finest.
Redline, I suspect, is aimed squarely at would-be-enthusiasts like me. One of the main reasons producer Daniel Sadek decided to make the film was to showcase his amazing personal collection of cars. "People never get to see cars like this anymore," he told the Los Angeles Times. "A lot of them are not even in the car shows." I'd be a liar if I said the sights and sounds he manages to put on the big screen aren't amazing. Because like him, I'd take a fire-breathing Lamborghini Murciélago over a hotted-up Honda Civic any day, thank you very much.
But beyond those sights and sounds, the things this film blithely dumps on car fans are full of significant problems. Like the supercars owned by Redline's millionaires, women are treated as pretty (and sensual) accessories. They are no more than objects to be ogled. Also dangerous is the fantasy-like way the movie treats high-speed racing on public roads. Is it ridiculous to turn your lights off at 200 m.p.h. at night? Of course. Has someone in real life already given it a try? I wouldn't be surprised. Will Redline give someone else the idea? Probably.
The film never acknowledges the possibility that anyone might try to imitate the reckless stunts its drivers perform. Instead, the speed and the crashes are treated as pure fantasy, more like a video game than anything approaching reality. And that's a big problem for those who might not distinguish between the two as easily as the filmmakers think they will.
Watching the credits, I was amused to see thank-you notices to a long list of police departments in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which no doubt closed roads and made it safe enough to film Redline. Oh, the irony.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Nadia Bjorlin as Natasha Martin; Nathan Phillips as Carlo; Jesse Johnson as Jason; Angus Macfadyen as Michael; Eddie Griffin as Infamous; Tim Matheson as Jerry Brecken
Andy Cheng ( )