A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Something to leave you RED in the face

In action, comic books on October 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Let’s say, that there were movies that came out in the summer; they had groups of ex-military or elite spies that were wronged and sought revenge on their betrayers. Let’s say these movies were big and loud, but overall shot themselves in the foot because they tried to hard to PLAY cool, as opposed to just letting their characters and actors BE cool. Take note movies like THE LOSERS and THE A-TEAM (which I still haven’t seen, so I’m judging you solely on performance and reviews I’ve seen.), RED is what you all should have been aiming for. We all know that Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Chris Evans, Idris Elba and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, can all be cool and kick ass. But as this movie and it’s plot proves, “they just don’t make ’em like they used to.”

The new movie, RED, based off the comic book mini-series by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner (of which I was a fan, when the book came out in 2003 or so), about a retired CIA agent that has worked black ops from Vietnam to Afghanistan (I’m assuming the old 1980’s trip, not the more current one), is sanctioned to be killed by a new person in a position of power. What everyone else doesn’t seem to realize is that Frank Moses (Bruce Willis in the movie and a much older drawn character in the comic) is practically an unkillable super-agent. And in the movie, he’s got back-up.

The movie oozes fun, from the action set pieces – there is one where directly after a car crash, Willis actually just steps straight out of the car in mid-spin and starts firing his weapon. (Just realized the moment is in the trailer below, which makes me sad, but oh well.) It’s amazing, and sadly the only really stylized moment of action-epicness. But that doesn’t make the movie any less great. The performances are all top-notch, from top-notch, iconic actors. We get the normal, cock-sure yet slightly bored performance from Bruce Willis. Who, even though you know HE knows he’s Bruce Willis can still make you feel like he’s not totally sure if a girl likes him. Mary-Louise Parker, is the audience’s guide into the action-adventure world of these ex-spies and unlike the more exposition heavy role that Ellen Page played in INCEPTION; she manages to make her character fun and doesn’t feel like we’re just being taught how this world works. (Plus, I’m in love with her and she’s completely hilarious.)

Then there’s the rest of the cast, which I don’t really have to explain how magnificent they are because all you need to know are the names and you understand. There’s Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Brian Cox, and Richard Dreyfuss. These guys all shine, and the thing is none of them are really stretching their wings to far from what we already know them from, from dozens of other movies. Freeman probably has the least to do, but with maximum fun. Mirren takes the lead as the gun-happy sniper of the group – and looks fabulous in an assorted wardrobe of furs and combat boots. Urban, picks up his role from THE BOURNE SUPREMACY with just a hint of his turn as “Bones” from STAR TREK. Creating the antagonist that is never really be called  a “bad guy”. Cox shows up, with I’ll admit a sort of dodgy Russian accent, but still shines. And Dreyfuss, who gets his turn as an over-tanned, mafioso. It was almost as fun as seeing him in PIRAHNA 3D, where there’s a great nod to his role in another killer fish movie.

But, the real stand-out, is John Malkovich. He gets the fun role of the totally crazy member of the team and he just chews up every moment he’s on-screen. It might be the best role he’s had since BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, though I think he’s probably a lot more fun here. Whether it’s from catapulting onto a deck; chasing bad guys with a bomb strapped to his chest; or over-reacting to people and helicopters following him. And then there’s his great end-of-the movie credit sequence.

The two weakest members of the cast, and admittedly they may only be so because they’re the only real “straight men” of the group is Julian McMahon and Rebecca Pidgeon. They both only really get about five minutes of screen-time, but their characters just break up the fun of everything that comes before and after they’re around. Then again, Ernest Borgnine is in the movie for like two minutes and is a pleasure, so I blame the actors. So who knows. I guess everybody can’t be awesome.

But, otherwise the movie is lots of fun. Full of action and some pretty, over the top moments of cartoony violence. The only real drawback, as mentioned is that there’s one moment of pure action craziness that isn’t really seen again, but even with all nine of it’s other toes steeped in a sort of reality it’s still plenty fun. Robert Schwentke (TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, don’t judge) and his screenwriters, Jon and Erich Hoeber (WHITEOUT, again, stop with the judging) infuse the movie with the character that allows the movie to be cool, without trying to cram it down our throats.

Definitely check it out.

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