Red (2010) – Based on the DC Comic – Directed by Robert Schwentke – Starring Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Karl Urban, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Richard Dreyfuss, Bryan Cox, James Remar, and Julian McMahon.
I watched this movie a week ago and can barely remember it. I liked it. I’d watch it again. But I can’t really remember it.
RED works as a Ocean’s 11 for ex-government operatives. It’s an all-star movie where everyone is having a good time hanging out and no one takes anything too seriously. Even when our good guys are getting shot at everyone has a smile on their face. The movie doesn’t want you to worry too much, so they even tell you when people are going to die so you can emotionally prepare yourself for it.
Bruce Willis stars as Frank, a retired super-agent living in the suburbs. Everyday is the same. He gets up, does some crunches, punches a heavy bag, gets the mail, rips up his pension check, and calls Mary-Louise Parker to complain he still hasn’t received his pension check. Frank and Sarah have this nice little chatty romance going on. She reads bad romance novels that Frank then decides to read. There’s a bit of subtext here about how Frank is trying to figure her out by reading what she reads but the film doesn’t dwell on it because the film doesn’t dwell on anything.
Someone sends a hit squad after Frank because he Knows Something and he ends up killing like a bajillion bad guys in his house. So he goes and gets Sarah, but he doesn’t knock on her door or anything. He breaks in while she’s on a date, waits for her, and then kidnaps her. But don’t worry, you know he’s a nice guy because he did some vacuuming before she came home.
There’s a little bit about OLD PEOPLE (basically, every name actor in the movie) vs. NEW PEOPLE (basically, Karl Urban) but the film doesn’t dwell on this, either, because RED doesn’t want to dwell on anything except for you having a good time.
And I did have a good time. The chemistry between Willis and Parker isn’t electric, but they work well together. “I didn’t want to meet like this,” Frank tells her as she’s tied up in the back of his car. “Yeah, well, I wanted you to have hair,” she drolls back.
That’s probably not an exact quote because nothing in this movie is really worth remembering for an entire week after you see it.
John Malkovich plays a crazy guy who lives in a swamp and Bryan Cox plays a Russian agent named Ivan. (As Roger Ebert wrote in his review of RED: “Ivan is a Russian, because the Russian in every thriller is named Ivan.”) That’s really the extent of the acting required in this movie because everyone else basically plays some version of their own persona. Helen Mirren is the tough British woman. Bruce Willis is the tough American. Morgan Freeman is the really old black guy. Ernest Borgnine is the really, really old white guy. Karl Urban is the young tough guy. Richard Dreyfuss does his Dick Cheney character. Mary-Louise Parker is eternally normal in an abnormal situation. Julian McMahon is slick and slimy. James Remar is happy to be in the film.
“RED” stands for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous” and it’s based on a Warren Ellis/Cully Hamner graphic novel which I haven’t read. What is interesting to me is that this isn’t a Warner Brothers movie. WB apparently had no interest in making RED into a movie, so the guy in charge of getting DC Comics properties turned into movies shopped it around and it ended up being made by Summit and Di Bonaventura, where it made enough cash to warrant a sequel.
Nice one, Warner Brothers. At least Wonder Woman looks awesome … oh, wait, it looks the opposite of awesome …
RED is actually a lesson for Wonder Woman, come to think of it. RED is less concerned with being beholden to the comic as it is with being something worth watching, and it succeeds well enough. Wonder Woman looks they’re busy trying to make something new fit into an old mold. Adrianne Palicki is a perfectly gorgeous woman on her own, but she looks kinda silly being forced into the traditional Wonder Woman look. I’d rather they just let Palicki be herself with Wonder Woman’s characteristics instead of slapping on ridiculously big and bright red lips and the flowing black hair.
And that’s probably the best way to think of RED – you put it on, you enjoy it, you end up talking through it about something else entirely.