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Movie Review: RED

Year: 2010

Stars: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, and a bunch of other old and typically respectable actors

Stars: 2 out of 5

RED is a shoot ‘em up, blow lots of shit up, pseudo comedy/action movie with an impressive cast of real veteran actors all teetering on the edge of washed up. They even dug up the still breathing corpse of Ernest Borgnine for a cameo most people under the age of 70 probably didn’t catch. I’ll warn you now there are “spoilers” all over, but I’m not sure I’m spoiling anything, because nothing in this movie makes any fucking sense and I’m not sure the producers really cared, as long as lots of shit blew up and John Malkovich got to act zany. Yee haw.

The movie starts with Bruce Willis playing the same character Bruce Willis is contractually obligated to play in 97.4% of the films he has ever made. An invincible assassin with a heart of gold risking his life for some chick he barely knows. He barely knows this chick, some headset drone in the government pension office Bruce is sweet on based on her voice, but he’s been stalking her (in a totally innocuous way.. I guess) and then goes as far as to break into her house and kidnap her (again in a hee-hee how cute way?) when he realizes his old bosses at the CIA want to kill him and by extension her, for some reason that is never really made clear, but has something to do with Richard Dreyfuss being a dick. In order to try to get as many of his old friends and colleagues killed, he enlists their help, at which point the onslaught of veteran award winning actors having their talents’ completely fucking wasted for lack of any coherent script or character development, begins.

We first meet John Malkovhich’s character, who is paranoid and seems to have Asperger’s. That’s all we ever really know about him. Then we meet Morgan Freeman, who “dies” 3 or 4 different times, in the kind of bad soap opera way, wherein the director wants to make it perfectly clear he’s dead, only to pop up again in the next episode, with some half-baked explanation. But in this case we don’t even get that, just a few wry Morgan Freeman smirks and catchphrases, which I guess we accept because Morgan freeman is a bad-ass spy, and they are like, hard to kill and stuff. Eventually, Freeman’s character finally is killed off, I think, fulfilling the Hollywood obligation to sacrifice the leading black character. Nice going. However, seeing as how Freeman wasn’t playing a veteran detective teaching his young partner the ropes to catch a serial killer, this must have been a stretch.

Next up is Brian Cox. An excellent actor who plays a former KGB agent now buddy-buddy with the old geezer ex-CIA crew. Just in case the audience was born after 1991 or retarded, we’re reminded that the Russians used to be the bad guys. Cox is the most disappointing in this film. He’s probably the best actor of the bunch here, and gets to play a boring, soft-spoken former Ruskie/”now-I-love-this-US-of-A” caricature, who just seems to want to do nothing but bang Helen Mirren (she’s up next). Helen Mirren is a nice grandmotherly older British gal, who offers tea and biscuits to visitors, but used to be an MI6 assassin and still loves to kill people. Wait a minute!!?? A NICE LITTLE OLD LADY WHO LIKES SHOOTING PEOPLE?? THAT’S FUCKING HYSTERICAL!! OH SWEET IRONY!

Anyway, at this point I should explain the rest.. Bruce Willis is being hunted by a young, cocky, hot-shot CIA up-and-comer. We know he’s cocky because after the first 5 or 6 times Bruce Willis has kicked his ass and almost killed him, he’s still taunting Willis with things like “Nice try grandpa” and “You should have stayed retired.” He says this, literally, with his arm in a sling and fresh bruises from his most recent ass kickings at Bruce’s hand. Not sure if it’s supposed to be funny or just idiotic writing, but more about that later. Also Richard Dreyfuss is some kind of evil weapons dealer (as opposed to the heroic family-oriented ones often depicted in Hollywood) and there’s something about the Vice President and a bunch of civilians killed 20 years ago in South America. How or why this is an issue at all, I don’t know, as in real life this is basically a daily occurrence known as: “a military operation based on actionable intelligence with some unfortunate collateral casualties.”

So anyway, the neurotic former government desk job chick from the beginning turns out to be a natural spy/expert in foiling CIA interrogations. The geezer crew hatch some plot to kidnap the vice president, Brian Cox comes to the rescue of his British girlfriend who likes making tea and shooting people, and the rest of the script seems like it was scribbled hastily on cocktail napkins right as “last call” was announced in some Hollywood bar. This isn’t surprising though. This movie was pretty damn ambitious. An A-list cast in a wild combination huge budget action movie/comedy all crammed into a neat and tidy 111 minutes for mass-consumption. I actually give a lot of props to the idea. But it’s obvious where corners needed to be cut to make it to the screen. The script plays out like junior college stream of consciousness filmmaking 101. The character development is nil, relying on the faces of actors we recognize playing the usual kind of parts they play. Finally, the movie ends, with no real resolution to the plot, no real “bad guy” is identified in the grand conspiracy except Richard Dreyfuss, and some people die. The geezer crew and the “new girl” drive off into the sunset with the same dialogue and blocking I swear was stolen from the last scenes of any of the Star Trek part IV-VI movies.

In summation, RED had its moments.. but they were few and far between. There were some cool special effects and spy shit, but since you weren’t sure if you were watching a comedy or a spy thriller, it was hard to get into. There was a fantastic cast, and none of them did much of anything memorable, save for a few catchphrases. Bottom line: If you are bored out of your skull and need 90+ minutes to kill, or a bunch of great actors just showing their award-winning faces on screen is enough for you, or the thought of a little old British lady with a gun just tickles the shit out of your funny bone, check it out. Otherwise, don’t bother.


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