Old 10-14-2010, 11:03 PM
Robert Schwentke's Red

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Red (2010)

Robert Schwentke's "Red" is another one of those over-the-top action flicks in the same vein as "The Losers" or the recent adaptation of the television series "The A-Team." A lot of it is just plain silly, but it also ends up being a lot of fun. Where else would you be able to see so many Oscar-winning actors having so much fun in a movie that's this zany?

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a retired CIA agent who now spends his days at home alone. His hobbies include frequently calling up a woman he likes, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), who works at the company that issues his retirement checks. One night, a group of would-be assassins attempt to kill him, but Frank is a harder target than they imagined. Frank escapes, but not before taking out every member of the group trying to kill him.

He decides that his best move is to go meet Sarah in person because he believes that she will be in trouble just from having had so many conversations with him. Later on, Frank teams up with several of his old acquaintances including Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), Victoria (Helen Mirren), and Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox). Together, they must unravel a mystery that involves several murders in a village in Guatemala that occurred many years ago. Meanwhile, a CIA agent, William Cooper (Karl Urban), is on their trail, and could very well be part of the cover-up that the team is looking to expose.

This is a film that is largely driven forward by the charisma of the actors themselves. It's a delight to see actors whom you wouldn't normally associate with a film like this have a go at this material. We are used to seeing Willis in this type of film, but seeing Helen Mirren (Oscar-winner for her brilliant performance in "The Queen") as an assassin is simply delightful.

Morgan Freeman rarely seems to break loose from his more serious roles, but "Red" gives him the opportunity to do just that. The film also includes some great cameos including two scenes from Ernest Borgnine as a record-keeper at the CIA and another two scenes from Richard Dreyfuss. This is one of those instances where I wish they wouldn't have given away in the opening credits that they would be showing up for these small roles. It would have been a great surprise to discover that as the movie progressed.

The only big problem is that the movie is simply too long at 111 minutes. The thing is, for a film like this where the plot is pretty thin in the first place, you can easily feel when the film starts to drag on past its prime. It's still a good film, it's just that there were parts that could have easily stood to be trimmed down or taken out completely to help the film proceed at a better pace.

Or the filmmakers could have looked at it from the other side and tried to beef up the story a little more, but then again, when people go to a film like this, they're not exactly expecting a detailed, multi-level plot with significant character development. They want something that is going to be able to sustain the vast amounts of explosions and gunfire. However, that doesn't always necessarily work.

Take a look at the recent "The Expendables." That had plenty of action and well-known actors, but the huge problems were that the acting was pretty bad and the action was largely incomprehensible. "Red" handles things in a much better manner with action scenes that are handled very well and actors who can act like their hamming it up without actually doing so.

If you find yourself entertained by films like "The Losers" and "The A-Team" then "Red" will probably be right up your alley. The best reason to get out there and see it is to see these actors take on this kind of over-the-top material. The fun they appear to be having on screen ends up being quite contagious. 3/4 stars.
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