Consider Death Wish. In the original film, Charles Bronson sought revenge against the thugs who raped his daughter and killed his wife – heinous acts that the audience enthusiastically agrees ought to be punished, even if it requires vigilantism.

Now consider Red, also about a man seeking justice, only this time the murder victim is his beloved old dog, killed with a shotgun by juvenile delinquents. We agree that the act is monstrous, but what kind of punishment is appropriate? Even the most fervent dog-lovers don't generally believe in the death penalty for killers of canines.

That's the dilemma at the heart of Red, an emotionally gripping if slightly over-wrought drama based on a novel by Jack Ketchum. It's set in a small Western town that still has a general store and friendly neighbors, a place where just about everyone has a dog. (The only pet-free families, I note, are the bad guys.) Brian Cox plays Avery Ludlow, a widower whose boon companion is Red, his 14-year-old hound. The two are fishing on the lakeshore one afternoon when a trio of punks comes along to harass and rob him. The leader, Danny (Noel Fisher), ends the encounter by blasting Red with a shotgun.