Red (2010)

Red (2010)
  • Time: 111 min
  • Genre: Action | Comedy | Crime
  • Director: Robert Schwentke
  • Cast: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren


Frank (Bruce Willis) is retired, bored and lonely living off his government pension in a nondescript suburb in an equally nondescript house. The only joy in Frank’s life are his calls to the government pension processing center when he gets to talk to his case worker Sarah (Mary-Louis Parker). Sarah is as bored and lonely as Frank and marks her conversations with the unknown Frank and her spy novels as the only things fun in her life. When something in Frank’s past forces Frank back into his old line of work and puts an unwitting Sarah in the middle of the intrigue, Frank and Sarah begin a journey into Frank’s past and the people he used to work with. Like Frank they are all RED … Retired Extremely Dangerous.

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  • Like any human being, we all get old at some point. As our body age, we don’t always have the same capability to perform the usual tasks we take on during the day. However when it comes to action related films, that concept doesn’t exist as much. Characters have much more freedom to be highly skilled in their older age and still manage to be quite agile. The tone that is used in these films are more serious than comedic. Rarely is the subject of age conveyed in a more comic relief tone. Considering that in the year 2010, DC and Warner Brothers had only found success in making dark, serious comic book movies, it didn’t seem likely that a movie of a lighter inflection would be made. Mind you this was also before the failed introduction of Hal Jordan in Green Lantern (2011), changing the formula seemed risky. Yet, as obscure as the comic book was, RED (2010) was a surprise hit after viewers saw it. Other than the campy Batman films directed by Joel Schumacher, there were few other DC comic book films of similar tone until this one.

    The title to this action comedy is actually an acronym that describes the protagonists; RED is short for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous”. Viewers are introduced to Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) a retired veteran agent of the field looking to do something with himself but can’t figure out what. After being attacked one night in his home, Moses brings along Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), a friendly phone operator in order to keep her safe. While on the road, they also reconnect with the rest of the team; cool man Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), crazy paranoid man Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) and Eagle-eye Victoria (Helen Mirren). Together they look to find why they’re being hunted, while the hunter himself named Cooper (Karl Urban) works endlessly to stop them. Jon and Erich Hoeber, two writers that do not have much consistency in their projects penned the screenplay adapted from the comic book. For this particular entry though, this has been their most widely acclaimed work.

    Having older agents come back into the field and still be lethal is a nice idea and the actors cast for those roles fit them well. The whole conspiracy subplot that involves the main characters can get wordy at times but it is understandable to some degree. The real problems are unsolved questions that appear throughout the movie. Things happen where it wasn’t revealed at all and no answer was given by the conclusion. What’s the point of that? Nonetheless, the actors themselves work well with the parts they were cast for. Willis, Mirren, Malkovich and Freeman all have acceptable chemistry with each other. This is perhaps one of the few times where Willis doesn’t have to act so tough all the time in order to crack a smile. Even Mary-Louise Parker has a good number of quips for how strange Willis’ character acts at first. Although the fact that the role of Sarah is somewhat a love interest to Frank is a tad cliche in itself, the real question is, who thought Parker and Willis looked good together? They aren’t ages apart but Willis looks too old.

    John Malkovich’s part is not an uncommon role, and being that his character is a little nutty, it fits right in. Marvin Briggs is the most comedic of the bunch being that he gets anxious to kill. On the other hand, Morgan Freeman slips away with his character practically just being himself but slicker. As for Helen Mirren, her part comes across delicate on the outside and a brutal sniper on the inside. Heck, Mirren doesn’t even blink when she fires her weapons. Karl Urban as Cooper is another dangerous agent and although he’s mostly cruel, he does have a human side to him. There’s also other appearances from other actors like Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine, Brian Cox and James Remar. For action, there are a number of sequences that are quite energetic. With the premise involving secret agents trained to kill, one would expect to have plenty of gunplay and explosive activity, of which it does. Throughout the running time, guns range from revolvers to powerhouse machine guns. Not to mention all the hand-to-hand combat too.

    Florian Ballhaus handled the cinematography for this film. The shots themselves were well executed but the look itself isn’t that impressive. There wasn’t much of a visual style to this film. There’s not even a whole lot of director Robert Schwentke’s “snap-zoom” movements, which is a pretty awesome trademark feature. The picture is wide and does get a number of urban landscapes but it’s just not much to look at or to be fascinated with. One would think since Ballhaus has worked on movies like The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and Marley & Me (2008), there would be some kind of appeal. The musical score composed by Christophe Beck is another enjoyable listening experience. Much of Beck’s composition mixes his usual sounds of bongos and drums with several different cues. These cues switch between guitar and clicky electronic synths that help elevate the action sequences when necessary. Also with Beck having experience in making music for comedy films, mingling action and comedic cues would make perfect sense coming from his perspective.

    The title is obscure just like its comic book origins, but it is one of the few comedic adaptations in the DC canon. The cinematography isn’t unique nor is every question answered, but the actors are well cast, the action is fun, the music is great addition and the comedy is well timed.

    Points Earned –> 7:10

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