“The Red Machine” is not some sports team; it isn’t even Putin’s wet dream of Soviet dominance reborn. It is a movie, an independent one at that, a husband and wife’s baby. “The Red Machine” is a spy thriller. It is set in 1935, in Washington DC. Based upon an “allegedly true rumor”, it tells the possibly true story of how the US Navy ‘stole’ a Japanese cipher machine, what they called the 91-shiki injiki, but what we called “Red”.
Historically, we did ‘steal’ this machine, which was a Japanese derivative of the more famous German Enigma machine. Enigma just had better press, which in the spying business is not necessarily a good thing. By ‘steal’ I mean photograph, because if one of these machines actually went missing, then any attempt to take one would be for naught. The Japanese would just make a new and totally different one. I say we did ‘steal’ this machine because, at the Battle of Midway we were reading Japanese intercepts and it worked tremendously in our favor. Midway occurred in 1942, so I’m getting a little ahead of myself here.
This is a buddy movie, not too far off from “48-Hours”. Both movies share a similar tight timeline. Here Nick Nolte’s gruff cop is Navy Lt. F. Ellis Coburn (Lee Perkins), both more taciturn and reticent than Nolte was and a man with a past. It is a past that dates to 1928. Continuing with this analogy, the Eddie Murphy convict is Eddie Doyle (Donal Thoms-Cappello) who is making his living stealing jewelry and other luxuries as a safe cracker. Eddie Doyle has never been caught until this once. Eddie is suborned into ‘stealing’ the machine.
There are twists and turns, double crosses and triple crosses. Writers and directors Stephanie Argy and Alec Boehm reel out an ever more layered web of intrigue. Sets and costumes are purposely plain and understated. This art direction lends to the low-key feel of the film. There is little violent action and no gunplay in the movie. In real life either one of these attributes would have been detrimental to the success of the mission. It is more about emotions and human entanglements. I found this movie to be a taut spy thriller in the World War II genera, which is a storyline that I prize. “The Red Machine” is on Netflix.