Written and directed by Scott Altman, an aspiring actress gets caught up in L.A.’s underworld. Starring: Wittie Hughes, Nicholas Lee, Roshema Purfoy, Helene Udy, Slim Khezri, ‘Melrose’ Larry Green and Jordan Destin.
The set-up of this film has a great point in how easily people can (and do) leave themselves frequently open to dangerous situations, in Mandy’s (Hughes) case, it’s becoming a victim of human trafficking. It very quickly establishes her naivety, her eagerness and failing foul of peer pressure, it’s genuinely difficult to watch her making such terrible decisions. Then before you know it, she doesn’t know where she is, she’s trapped in a room and is being forced into prostitution. The writing shows you all the red flags that sadly she didn’t pick up on but unfortunately after she’s been captured, it becomes much less observant or poignant.
One of the biggest issues is how much time it spends looking at things through the perspective of her abuser, it’s entirely unnecessary to frame him as anything other than the disgusting predator that he is, so any additional time is awkwardly indulgent. It loses its way from telling a story about her struggle and becomes something that’s trying to force a grittier, grimy edge that feels cheap. The way it plays out her emotions doesn’t feel realistic, and throwing in a lesbian angle was completely inappropriate and felt more like pandering to a straight male audience than anything to do with its story.
Altman’s direction on the other hand is pretty much what you’d expect to see from a film like this, probably best described as an indie crime drama. It doesn’t quite have the atmosphere of a thriller or hold enough suspense to pull that off. One exception is the use of drone shots, with their recent surge in popularity and accessibility, they can sometimes feel superfluous but there are some really great shots that hold a lot more personality and sharpness than the film as a whole. Otherwise Altman does make good use of the space, the film gives that closed in feel of captivity but never feels claustrophobic.
Hughes gives a solid performance as Mandy, she brings that naivety through strongly, she’s a very open and kind character. As time goes on she starts to bring out the stronger and resilient side to her, as well as her musical talent but that element feels more forced and going for an awkward silver lining to kidnap and rape. Roshema Purfoy provides a little relief in the form of the Lola but she never really gets the time to explore her character in any deep way. The brief moment she does get, bring a very calm presence and there’s a genuine sadness to be found in how easily she lets herself be used and lives in blissful ignorance.
Red Carpet had an interesting idea to explore the ease and frequency with which human trafficking operates in today’s world but it seemed uninterested in the weightier aspects in favour of a more predictable and cheap crime story. The writing needed a woman’s perspective and the emotions it portrays for its lead are tricky to believe but Hughes still does well in spite of that and manages to hit the right notes for her character. With a film like this, it knows what it wants to be and that’s pretty much all you get so the potential for a more tangible, moving and emotional story falls completely by the wayside.