‘Colors Of Evil: Red’ Netflix Review: Polish Crime-Drama Is A Dour Reminder That Patriarchy Needs To Die


Time and again, the crime-drama genre has been used to highlight how evil men are and how they’ve turned the world into a hellscape for women. David Fincher has practically dedicated a major chunk of his life to trying to tell people that America, and practically any country that decides to emulate America, has become unlivable for women because there are too many psychopaths running around everywhere. Films like Memories of a Murder, Talvar, and Silence of the Lambs showed that the justice system is weirdly biased towards men, and even though these representatives of justice don’t have any personal relations with the perpetrator, they always try to give them the benefit of the doubt just so that they can play down the trauma inflicted upon a woman. And Killers of the Flower Moon highlighted the fact that if misogyny is mixed with racism, then its repercussions can be felt throughout generations. Colors of Evil: Red is yet another reminder that patriarchy needs to die immediately.

Adrian Panek’s Colors of Evil: Red, which is written by Panek and Lukasz M. Maciejewski and based on Malgorzaty Oliwii Sobczak’s novel, opens with Monika and Mario arriving at the Shipyard Club. While Mario gets busy partying, Monika approaches the bartender, Waldemar Mila, to secure a job. Moments later, the two get intimate with each other, and that’s followed by a jarring cut to Monika’s naked, dead body lying on the beaches of Tricity, Poland. Bilski, from the DA’s office, approaches officers Kita and Pajak to learn about the circumstances of Monika’s death. Since the way in which Monika’s body has been mutilated is similar to the death of Zaneta Kaleta, who was killed 15 years ago allegedly by a man called Jakubiak, Bilski is sent in his direction. A bloodied t-shirt is found in the recently released felon’s backyard, and Jakubiak is arrested yet again. He tries to convince Bilski that he was framed before and that he is being framed again. Bilski doesn’t listen to him, and Jakubiak decides to die by suicide. With the serial killer apparently dead, Monika’s parents, Helena (a judge) and Roman (a lawyer), pay their last respects, and the case is closed by Bilski’s boss, Ambroziak. Something about Jakubiak’s last words irks Bilski, thereby prompting him to find the real killer, who is hiding in plain sight.

The heinous nature of Monika’s murder or the mystery surrounding it isn’t something new. I don’t think the commentary on rape, murder, and misogyny is a game-changer, either. But that’s kind of the point of Colors of Evil: Red. It reminds viewers that even though human civilization has reached the 2020s, crimes against women are still a thing. In fact, as per statistics from all around the world, crimes against women seem to be on the rise, and the barbarity of these incidents is getting more and more horrifying. To make matters worse, every institution (most of which have a lopsided ratio of male to female employees) is apparently protecting or scripting the “comeback” of men with a history of abuse. Meanwhile, women in positions of power, women who are trying to make a name for themselves, and those who are trying to survive by working within the confines of this patriarchal society are finding it increasingly impossible to simply exist. Panek and Lukasz show that there are “well-meaning” men out there, but it’s not enough to bring about any real change. They can become increasingly protective about their loved ones or blow out their brains after failing to deal with the guilt of oppressing women, but it won’t improve the situation we are all in. A systemic overhaul is the need of the hour, but more importantly, every family that treats their male child like their crown jewel who can do no wrong must be given mandatory sex education every single day until they can function like a normal human being around women.

Out of everything that happens in Color of Evil: Red, the moment that’s on my mind is the interaction between Monika and Pajak. As a casual viewer, you are aware of Monika’s mental state, and you have a vague idea of Pajak’s allegiances. The camera set-up is simple. It’s a basic shot-reverse-shot scene—nothing too fancy. However, in between the medium shots of Monika and Pajak, we keep getting a wide shot of the room so that you can see the poster towering over Pajak’s desk while Monika tries to register a case of rape and murder against Kazar. The poster features a fully naked woman who is hardly covering herself up, and it’s in a police station where victims of objectification and sexual violence come to get justice. The fact that that poster is up there means that no one has called out Pajak’s depraved behavior because sexism is so normalized that nobody sees that picture as a transgression. Moreover, it explicitly shows that the job of a policeman is just an excuse for some to act out their weirdest power fantasies. Panek uses this sort of banality throughout the film, and it’s mostly effective and stomach-churning. But then he punctures them with the most out-of-place songs for no perceivable reason, thereby upending the seriousness and urgency of a lot of scenes. Apart from that, the movie is competently shot and edited. It doesn’t aim to be striking or particularly memorable, like Se7en does, but thankfully, it’s not as bad as Jaane Jaan. It’s a middle-of-the-road genre fare.

The performances from the entire cast of Colors of Evil: Red are pitch-perfect. Jakub Gierszal’s stoicism is a thin facade as he tries to navigate the treacherous world of abusive men supporting monsters masquerading as men. His sense of empathy for the victims and determination to solve the case become indistinguishable from one another. That said, the flimsy reasoning behind it all or the revelation of said reasoning didn’t really work for me. Maja Ostaszewska and Zofia Jastrzebska are great, and they absolutely nail the pain and desperation of their characters. But, oddly enough, they become very one-note very soon. They spend a significant amount of their screen time crying and flailing around helplessly. I get that that’s the point of those characters. However, would it have hurt the writers to give them some more substance? Andrzej Konopka, Przemyslaw Bluszcz, Wojciech Zielinski, Andrzej Zielinksi, Jan Wieteska, and Wojciech Kalita manage to generate a vitriolic urge to strangle their respective characters. However, as your blood pressure attains some form of normalcy, you realize that the real-life counterparts of these characters have turned the world into such an aggravating landscape that it’s impossible for people to go about their lives without facing a man who thinks he deserves to meddle with the lives of total strangers, just because this patriarchal society allows them to, and walk away unscathed.

At the cost of sounding repetitive, Colors of Evil: Red doesn’t reinvent the wheel or attempt to revitalize the crime-drama genre. It’s there to serve as a reminder that evil largely exists in one form (men), and until and unless they are either forced to be better than what a patriarchal society wants them to be or wiped off the face of the earth, human civilization isn’t going to progress. I think the movie tries to end on a positive note by making it all about how justice is served if you are patient and observant enough, and how you should hug your loved ones since life is so fleeting. But after witnessing the spine-chilling ordeal of the female characters, that saccharine conclusion actually feels like a dark joke, and it unintentionally dissuades people from starting a family because why would you want to bring an innocent life into this hazardous landscape and then spend the rest of your life hoping that they don’t cross paths with a man? Anyway, give Colors of Evil: Red a watch if you can stomach the anxiety, sadness, and uneasy feeling of dread emanating from the film.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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