Correction appended version of the review published in iMAGES on Sunday, 31 October 2010, in MKJ and Farheen Jawaid’s column Animadversion. The published version’s link can be found at the end of this post.
Death by Retirement, If Nothing Else
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
In the gun-happy film “Red”, the only thing that is missing is the actual inclusion of the title color. “Red” is a blood-less statement of coolness whose genetic structure is a mixture of a DC Comic Book, Bruce Willis and a smattering of gun-trotting class-A actors (hey, everyone has to make a living).
Showboating an action sequence, perhaps the second or the third one in to the movie, where in a hijacked police car a sedated and woozy Mary-Louise Parker and on-the-run Bruce Willis are suddenly rammed-in by Karl Urban’s CIA-licensed Black SUV. As the police car whirls out of control Mr. Willis does an uber-cool special effect stunt designed to amp-up the film’s wow-factor: He smoothly walks out of the still-free-skidding car, in slow-motion, one foot in front of the other, gun firing at Mr. Urban’s SUV while nearly evading the on-the-rebound car bumper. It all happens in a span of seconds.
With this sequence director Robert Schwentke (The Time Travellers Wife, Flight Plan), pumps up the WOW, but does he keep it up? Well, nearly.
“Red”, loosely based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, is about retired black-ops agents who are framed by the government (“Red” by the way means “Retired, extremely dangerous”).
Mr. Willis’ retired Frank Moses – apparently the once perfect black-ops guy, who toppled governments – is aided by cancer-inflicted (and a wee-bit perverted) Morgan Freeman (Joe Matheson), an off-kilter John Malkovich (Marvin Boggs), a gun-specialist Helen Mirren (Victoria) and the old K.G.B agent Brian Cox (Ivan Simonov) – pining for action and Ms. Mirren, the once love of his life. Retirement doesn’t suit him, or any of the film’s other big-names. “I haven’t killed anyone in years”, he tells Frank.
Frank, himself lonely in an average-guy’s sanctuary begins a long-distance one-way romance with Ms. Parker. She is a customer service officer who gulps down spy-romance novels and works at the pension office that supplies Frank with his old-age cheques. Soon Frank is visited by a government assassination team, and goes on the run with Ms. Parker – whose life, apparently, like Cameron Diaz’s in the years other spy-thriller “Knight & Day” – should automatically be in trouble for coming into contact with him.
The rest of the movie needs no introduction, save for the fact that the brightly paced screenplay by Jon and Erich Hoeber later feature Julian McMahon (a sniveling Vice President involved in a loophole), Richard Dreyfuss (routinely cast as the sneaky, scene chewy-type villain) and the CIA’s secret record keeper Ernest Borgnine, who looks surprisingly well for his 94 years age.
Mr.Urban is the likely supporting hero – the good-guy CIA agent with a family, who’s proficient at smashing teeth-in, if nothing else. Like every good-guy agent, Mr. Urban is out of the loop on official matters.
“Red” has three things going for it. Velocity, lightheartedness and ridiculousness. Everyone is sketched to requirement (ie. their back-stories pop-up at just the right instances) and the action, which the bulk of the movie is about (sometimes with bad, unrealistic CGI), smartly suits the texture of the film, much like the clear and soft color-correction.
Akin to “The Expendables”, which also sports a Gung-Ho group on a suicide mission, “Red” too is about being blunt, boisterous and having fun. It purposely treats itself like a comic and apart from one totally meaningless death it succeeds, if only marginally.
Released by Summit Entertainment. The film is based on the DC Comic by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.
“Red” is rated PG-13. Bad-shots and dislocated arms are the spice of life here.
By Farheen Jawaid
The light hearted and amusing multi-starrer “Red” is an avatar of two used-to-death premises of 2010: In the first example, a group of people out on the run from the government, blow stuff up with as much one liners as bullets, as they uncover the truth behind their framing (The candidates being: “The A-Team”, “The Expendables” and “The Losers”). The other premise in “Red” has the ex-CIA – and soon to be boyfriend – kidnapping the film’s leading lady to save her from forces unknown (“Knight and Day” and traces of “The Killers”).
Bruce Willis, in his trademark tired-but-sincere manner starts the movie as Frank Moses, a retired lonely man whose everyday routine consists of exercising, eating, reading the mail, tearing his retirement checque and calling Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) the customer service officer overlooking his retirement checques. However this cycle of dead normalcy is interrupted by a group of assassins. The assassins’ reason for tagging him is simple enough. He’s a “Red”. Ernest Borgnine, in a delightful cameo as Henry, the go-to guy in the CIA classified department, explains to CIA operative William Cooper (Karl Urban), that “Red” is an acronym of “Retired: Extremely Dangerous”.
Henry then shows Moses work history to William: a thick dossier with 90% of the content blacked out to maintain government secrecy.
Now on the run, Moses kidnaps his telephonic girlfriend and puts his team of oldies back to together to unravel a thoughtless conspiracy.
The A-list cronies are the most fascinating aspect of “Red”. Like “The Expendables”, Red’s cast and their silly antics push the movie from being “not so bad” to “just about good enough”. I guess that’ll have to do.
The published versions can be found at: