Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Comedy, Action/Adventure, but mostly somewhere in between
Opens October 15th, 2010
Rated PG - 13, Run Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
Starring: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker
Directed by Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler's Wife)
For a movie named after a bright, exciting color, the movie couldn't be more dull. "Red" actually stands for "Retired, Extremely Dangerous", based on a comic book mini-series by Warren Ellis (and artist Cully Hammer), it is meant to be one of those "Lethal Weapon"-style action pictures...one with a good amound of thrills, that keeps you laughing along the wild ride. Well Red is no Lethal Weapon even, falling somewhere between the two genres it tries to belong to. It is not nearly funny enough to recommend, and it fails as an action movie as well. What's left? We see several fine actors collecting a paycheck in what will surely be a low point in many of their careers.
The Plot. To be fair, I hear the film version is much different than the comic, which was more serious in tone and much more focused on the main character. Bruce Willis is this central character, Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent. He lives a fairly normal life, and has befriended a Social Security Phone Operator (Parker) who he makes excuses to call on a daily basis. When a hit-squad is sent to kill Moses at his home, Moses appears at the phone operator's house and abducts her, all in the name of love apparently. You see, they will want to kill her too, since they know from tapped phone conversations that she is important to Moses. They have the necessary banter required of films like this, but we all sense in reality that if someone breaks into your home and abducts you, you probably won't end up falling in love with them, or think that it's charming.
So now on the run, Moses attempts to "put the band back together" in hopes of finding out why and who wants him killed. The team consists of old horndog Morgan Freeman, adventure-seeking Helen Mirren, and crazy lunatic John Malkovich. A new CIA agent is hunting their every move. Richard Dreyfuss shows up as a villain who knows what's going on.
Wasted Talent. With actors like Willis, Malkovich, Dreyfuss, Mirren, Morgan and several others (such as Brian Cox, Karl Urban, and Ernest Borgnine), it is a huge disappointment that none of them are compelling here. I never quote other film critics in my reviews, but Roger Ebert sums this movie up as best as possible when he says Red is "neither a good movie nor a bad one. It features actors we like doing things we wish were more interesting." I'd disagree only in saying that I think Red is a bad movie. I am a big Richard Dreyfuss fan, but his hammy over-the-top appearance here reminded me of Al Pacino's hammy over-the-top appearance in "Gigli." And when a "Gigli" reference comes to mind during a film, it's also not a good sign.
Mono-Tone. The movie does try, but it just doesn't succeed. The tone of the movie is off completely, never quite achieving tongue-in-cheek comedy and never quite becoming an interesting action flick. The first half of the film, I thought Willis was miscast, and thought what the movie would have been like had it starred a pure comedian like Will Ferrell, or even Bill Murray. As the film went along, I couldn't have seen either of them handle the more straight action stuff. I don't know, but when you find yourself re-casting the movie in your head while watching, it's probably a sign that you are not invested on any level. Add to it that the whole joke seems to be that these are old, retired action-eers, and this joke just never plays out in any real way. We know the actors are older, but their age never becomes an issue, until in between the action sequences where they make comments so that the audience can remember they were old. I'd have rather seen them try to do things that they used to with ease, but now struggle because of their age and distance from their prime. There's comedic potential in that...but when they act like superheroes and then say "hey we're so old!" in-between, it just falls flat.
Bottom Line. If you're looking for a good action-comedy, go see "The Other Guys" with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Or for a pure action-adrenaline movie named after a color, go find the much-more-serious "Green Zone" starring Matt Damon. But I wouldn't waste time with this one, especially with oh so many other movies of a better shade out there than "Red".
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