RED – Film Review
STARRING: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban
DIRECTOR: Robert Schwentke
STUDIO: di Bonaventura Pictures/DC Entertainment/Summit Entertainment
RUN TIME: 111 min
RELEASED: October 15
By Eric Stuckart
Loosely based on the graphic novel of the same name by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, I was definitely one of the skeptics when it comes to ideas of how this film was going to turn out. After seeing the trailer, it was apparent that the dark tone of the book was eschewed in favor of a much more lighthearted tale. In the wrong hands, an adaptation of this sort would end up a disaster.
The book was so short and minimal that filmmakers would have trouble stretching it out to even half an hour, let alone a feature length film, but Jon and Erich Hoeber have managed to flesh it out and embellish upon the story in a manner that tells a slightly different tale without completely pissing all over the source material.
Despite the changes and additions to the book, my fears were unfounded. RED may not have retained the grim nature of the book, but it kept the spirit in a fashion that made it fun to watch and oftentimes very funny.
RED tells the story of Frank Moses, an ex-CIA operative that was enjoying his retirement. He gets up every morning, works out, and gets his mail, just like every other average retired old guy. He spends his free time keeping up with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), an employee at his pension agency. He’s shamelessly crushing on her and has no real reason to call her, so he calls up the agency because of ‘missing paychecks’ as a way for the awkward man to get a chance to try and have a normal conversation with people outside of the system.
And this is all well and good until a kill squad shows up at his door to take him out. Moses being the operative that he once was, things don’t end so well for his would-be assailants. So Moses heads to Kansas City to pick up Sarah, whose life he believes to be in danger now because of his constant communications with her, and they uncover a plot to kill a bunch of former operatives.
These ops include John Malkovich as a paranoid fellow op with a past history consisting of a ton of LSD-fueled government experi- ments, Morgan Freeman as the obligatory retired old man, Helen Mirren as a former assassin having a hard time adjusting to retirement, and Brian Cox as a former Russian spy. Karl Urban plays the CIA agent tasked with taking Moses out, and Richard Dreyfuss chews the scenery as Alexander Dunning, an obnoxious private defense contractor who knows why they’re all on the hit list.
The film is a fast-paced romp from one location to the next, with Moses trying to gather clues and more help along the way, all while trying to not get himself or his comrades killed. And nearly everywhere they go, there’s an eye in the sky with the sights set on their heads.
The reason it all works so well is because of the casting and the humor. Nearly every actor in this film has been around the block for quite some time, and their experience shows. The chemistry between these characters is apparent, and most importantly, they’re having fun all the while. That’s something you can’t fake.
In RED, the action is good and plenty, but the film never loses sight of the slight comic touches, such as Malkovich’s frequent freakouts, and Parker is lovable as Sarah, who grows from someone thinks that Moses is just a creep trying to kidnap her to someone who truly cares for him.
As for Bruce Willis, it’s kind of weird to imagine him as a retiree. It’s not that he’s not convincing in the role either, but after years of me only being able to picture him as John McClane for some twenty-odd years, the role of a retired old man isn’t something that comes naturally. However, if retirement for McClane meant anything like his character in RED, then it should make perfectly good sense.
That being said, RED pretty much proves that there’s still much life left in his career. It’s a fun, light-hearted action-comedy that might not give viewers too much to think about, but the opportunity to watch a great cast having fun and being funny doesn’t come often.
Front page photo from collider.com.