27 October 2010

RED (Review= Easily Dismissed)

Every now and then, an otherwise "prestige" actor will do the kind of action flick they would never normally bother with, to help pay the bills. John Malkovich did Jonah Hex, Helen Mirren was in National Treasure 2 and Morgan Freeman had more success with Wanted. Now that Bruce Willis has suddenly become an old guy in the estimation of someone or other at the studio, he teams up with these three for another "team" action movie, RED.

These initials stand for "Retired and Extremely Dangerous", the CIA's tag for its old alumni. Frank Moses is one of these men, and when he entertains a squad of assassins in his home late one evening, he goes on the road to find out why his former employers want him dead. He recruits three R.E.D colleagues and a call centre worker who's also got a hit out on her due to her connection with Moses.

Do we consider 55-year-old Bruce Willis as an old man now? I'm not delusional, so I realise he's aged since Die Hard, but really? Maybe it's just because he's alongside older actors like Freeman, Mirren and Malkovich, but I didn't really see it. One thing I will say is that I think he's been making slightly poor choices these days. Surrogates and Cop Out were both missteps and although he probably came off best out of The Expendables, that's because The Expendables wasn't very good.

You can see the appeal for him then, in a film where he's perfectly cast as a retired secret agent who's a lot like... well, Bruce Willis. The problem is that this is pitched as another of those "team" movies that have been so popular in 2010, like The Expendables, or The Losers or The A-Team. This film, like those other films, focuses less on why these guys work together and more on individual moments of awesome. So like all of the other team movies of 2010, it feels disparate.

The other three agents are all very good of course. The lateness of my review for RED means that Bob Chipman has already coined the perfect pithy review of the team dynamic on The Escapist, by comparing the characters to their younger counterparts. It's difficult to extricate Malkovich from the comparison to Jason Bourne, making a comic relief character all the more funny with his wide-eyed paranoia and fearless abandon. Helen Mirren is also great, but you kind of wonder where else Morgan Freeman had to be that meant his presence was so fleeting in this one.

The supporting players come across nicely too. I'd never really heard of Mary Louise Parker until I saw this, but I gather that she's great in TV roles too, reminding me once again that I really need to catch up with The West Wing. Karl Urban is at his scene-stealingest best too, especially in a centrepiece throw down with Willis himself that's brutal and well choreographed and, unfortunately, the only really memorable thing about RED.

Don't get me wrong, it's good enough, but it rambles on like Grampa Simpson about chasing the Kaiser- you don't really know what these people are aiming to achieve, but you're just meant to sit back and laugh. I didn't find it consistently funny enough to entirely cover the lack of plot, and there are a couple of irritating augmentative touches that grate all the way through. For instance, the score comes from a shoddier action comedy than this, and it's obscenely obtrusive. This makes the film sound like Cats & Dogs, of all things.

The hierarchy of team movies in 2010 would go, in order of increasing quality, like this- The A-Team, then The Expendables, then The Losers and then RED. It's the best in a very weak field, and you wonder where these four films came from, to arrive within months of each other as they have. It's directed well, and the actors are clearly having fun without annoying the shit out of the audience in the process. It's Routine, Entertaining, but Disposable.

RED is now showing in selected cinemas nationwide.
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If you've seen RED, why not share your comments below? If you're waiting for Willis to do another role like The Sixth Sense or Unbreakable, then believe me, so am I.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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