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Thursday, October 14, 2010

RED – Reasonable Elderly Delight

RED = 3 out of 5 Stars

Sarah:  Are you ok.
Frank:  C’mon.  People get shot all the time.
Sarah:  No, they don’t…people get paper cuts all the time.
Marvin:  I mostly get shot.

A decent action comedy that I feel is going to get more love from general audiences than I had for it.  I certainly enjoyed the movie overall, thanks to its casting and a couple of fun action scenes, but something about this film’s energy just did not hold up well throughout.  While based on a much darker graphic novel, I was not as much disappointed with this film’s departure from the source material as much as I just didn’t really care for the story presented in this movie.  To make a vague reference, this movie is more fun than it is good.


Bruce Willis stars as Frank Moses, a former CIA operative living alone, as he tries to come to terms with his retirement.  Frank has apparently spent time trying to come up with hobbies, which includes flirting over the phone with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), the woman who delivers Frank’s pension checks.  Of course, we only get to know Frank and his retired life for about ten minutes before a group of assassins destroy his house and try to kill him.  Frank, not being out of practice, quickly eliminates those trying to kill him and makes his way around the country to find some answers.

Henry, the Record Keeper:  Y’know, RED – Retired. Extremely Dangerous.  They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

Frank goes on to meet up with many of his cohorts from the old days, which includes Morgan Freeman as Joe; a former killer who now has cancer and lives in a retirement home, John Malkovich as Marvin; an incredibly paranoid former operative, and Helen Mirren as Victoria;  a lethal weapons expert.  Frank also kidnaps Sarah along the way, as the assassins may try to hurt her too, so it’s at least one of those endearing kidnappings.


On the other side of things, we learn that the CIA has in fact ordered the termination of several retired operatives for reasons revealed later on.  The chief enforcer in this matter is Agent Cooper, played by Karl Urban, a cold man, who Frank sees a little bit of himself in, especially as they beat the hell out of each other.

[Frank has Cooper pinned down]
Frank:  Did Kordeski train you?
Cooper: Yeah.
Frank:  I trained Kordeski.
[Frank dislocates Cooper’s shoulder]

The film also stars Richard Dreyfuss as the self proclaimed “bad guy,” Brian Cox as another retired operative from Russia, and Ernest Borgnine as the record keeper guarding an ultra top secret vault containing all the files on all these well trained, bad ass old folk.  So with all these characters in play, it will be up to Frank and his gang to deliver some old school problem solving via gunplay and plenty of elderly quips.

The casting is very much the highlight of this film.  And when I say the casting, I of course mean having Helen Mirren star as a former assassin, with a scene involving her wielding a large machine gun and blasting away at bad guys.  She is certainly game for the role, but the rest of the cast is solid enough as well.  Morgan Freeman is given the least to do, but it’s Freeman, so you know he’s good.  Willis does his thing, playing it very cool and pulling off some action moments that only Willis could pull off, smirk at, and get away with.  Although since when is Willis old (or at least in the same league as the rest of these people)?  All the great comedy comes from Malkovich, who manages to deliver many great lines all made better by the quirkiness of Malkovich’s own style of delivery.

Marvin:  Old man my ass.

Now when these characters aren’t bouncing off of each other’s chemistry, the movie’s action kicks into gear, and the action sequences in this movie are certainly very good and quite slick.  A lot of it goes over the top, certainly showing off these former spies as a force to be reckoned with.  The film has explosions and cool stunts, the kind of thing you want in this type of movie.  While it is PG-13, there is certainly quite a bit of edge to what is shown.  It comes down to the tone of the film, which is essentially fairly fanciful, and kind of leads to my problems with the movie.

The original comic book, by Warren Ellis, was a very dark and grisly tale, with almost no levity.  It was also only three issues long.  I was very aware of the movie I was going into when I saw it, and I’m also aware that a movie version of the original comic would be pretty impossible to pull off as a mainstream feature; however, while being able to divorce myself from the material, it still doesn’t help that I found the movie to be pretty forgettable by the time it was over.  The plot stretches on, but I really didn’t find myself caring about the twists occurring, yet the film still has a lot going for it.

I feel conflicted and this is kind of strange to put into words, because as I’ve described, the film has all the elements to be something fun.  It has a good cast, it has some fun action, and there are a lot of fun comedic moments, but the film still left me cold by the time it had ended.  It’s pretty much the perfect example of fun while it lasted.  But despite my gripes, I think it could be a movie many others enjoy.  Maybe I was having an off night or some subconscious attachment to the comic is still lingering, but there is a lot to enjoy in this movie.  It’s pretty unoriginal and predictable in terms of its premise and story, but it’s also quite fun and enjoyable in terms of its casting and action.  And did I mention that Helen Mirren wields a large machine gun and blasts away at people?

Marvin:  I remember the secret service being tougher.
Victoria:  Me too.

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