Saturday, October 23, 2010

"I remember the CIA being a lot tougher." "Me too."

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Warren Ellis's three issue mini-series RED was one of those comics I never thought would get a movie, or at least a movie that was a direct adaptation. Why? Because for one the comic wasn't all that good. Despite it only having three issues, I was really disappointed that the plot could be written on my middle finger. That and there is one issue that has barely any talking and might as well just be pictures for about 10-20 pages. I'm not a comic snob by any means but I expected more to say the least, especially given the concept. 

But enough about the comic, is the film any good? Well yes, yes it is. It did what I hoped and was nothing like the comic whatsoever. It kept the basic outline of the story but expanded and added so much more to it that it went from potentially an Edge of Darkness rip off to a great action comedy ensemble piece featuring some of my favorite actors.

The plot of the movie follows Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA agent whose just trying to live a nice, quiet life in the suburbs. He puts up Christmas decorations, waves to the neighbors, and unless you knew him personally, wouldn't probably peg him as a CIA agent. When he's not reading romance novels or working out he's talking on the phone with Sarah (Mary Louise Parker), a customer service rep. Sarah is quirky but is very understanding of Frank, something Frank's not used to.

But one day a group of black ops hit-men show up to Frank's house and try to kill him. Despite being retired Frank is still deadly and takes out all of the agents. Once he disposes of them he goes to find Sarah, whom he believes is also a target. While this is happening, a hot shot CIA agent (Karl Urban) is assigned to hunt down and kill him.

He grabs Sarah and then decides the best course of action would be to "get the band back together" and find out whose trying to kill them. He gets Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), a weapons expert, Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), Frank's mentor and master of disguise, Ivan Siminov (Brian Cox), a Russian spy, and Victoria (Helen Mirren), a wetwork agent and together they band together to figure out this mystery.
The story is engaging, doesn't really drag on and is full of great humor. You never feel bored watching RED and even when things are hot and heavy, it's still hilarious. During many firefights or confrontations, Marvin would spout out great one liner after one liner while Victoria would prove that seeing a proper English dame shoot assault rifles is hilarious. While these two definitely steal the show, all of the other actors are great as well. Bruce Willis finally gets a movie that is tailored made for him mixing one part badass, one part teddy bear with a heart of gold and one part comedian. It feels like his role was written and for him and as a long time Willis supporter that is great to see. Freeman doesn't have a huge role in the movie but I stand by statement that whenever Freeman talks, you listen. 

The two surprises for me though were Brian Cox and Karl Urban. Both actors are talented but have kind of drifted off my radar. That's not to say they aren't talented but they don't really stand out. In this movie however they both make their presence known and that kind of caught me off guard. Brian Cox's portrayal of Ivan is one part Russian stereotype, one part spy stereotype but also one part sarcastic anti-hero. Ivan fully admits that he isn't exactly a good guy but you don't care because he's a good guy now. Still that doesn't stop him from saying some really out there things that are really funny. He also has some great scenes with Mirren. Urban as Agent Cooper surprised me because while he is an antagonist, you can tell that it's not because he's evil but because he's just one of those guys who doesn't ask questions and does his job. Many times as the film went on I actually felt for Cooper and kind of wished he saw past the facade of the real evil doers and was a good guy. But he was great.

Acting and story aside, the action was great but my biggest complaint would be that there wasn't enough. For every action heavy scene there is at least one scene of talking or prep for the upcoming action scene. I know they were trying to not have it be just mindless action scene after action scene and for that I'm glad, but there were some times when I wish the action scenes would go on longer and the talking less. It never reached boredom levels, mostly due to the acting and writing, but still I wished for more.
Red is a good example of how to show that older actors can be funny and kick ass at the same time. I hate to use the expression that has been used in every other review but this really did kind of feel like a funnier, classier version of the Expendables from time to time. All of these great older actors shoved into one film together with some great action and humor. I actually thought it was better then the Expendables in a lot of ways because unlike the Expendables, RED knew what it was and never strayed from that. A great film through and through. Give it a look.



  1. This is the fun ride The Expendables was supposed to be.

  2. I guess I didn't like this quite as much as you Travis - I was a bit bored during some of the action set up's. That being said, when the action came, it was great! I totally agree about Karl Urban too, I thought he was awesome (the chemistry between him and Willis was terrific). Shame Morgan Freeman didn't have a bigger role. All in all though, it was still a damn entertaining movie

  3. I enjoyed the heck out of this film.

    By the way, I think it's interesting that the line you quoted at the top of the review was different from the preview to the movie. Unless I my ears played tricks on me, the line in the actual film is "I remember the Secret Service as being a lot tougher." (If I'm right, I understand why they'd redub it for the preview. If I'm wrong, I'll get my hearing checked. :) )