Wednesday, 20 October 2010

RED: Mirren Brings out the Big Guns

This movie can be sold on the strength of one single image:

If that doesn't do anything for you, you probably won't be impressed with this film.

RED is a comic book adaptation from the work of Warren Ellis; it is apparently not particularly faithful to the source material, choosing to use the book as inspiration for a larger story. Said story concerns the improbably named Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent played by Bruce Willis, coming under fire from the very agency he used to serve. Moses sets out to find out who put him in front of the gun with the help of some old associates and a girl from the pension service call-centre who he has a crush on.

This is a silly slice of action cheesecake with a few decent setpieces, a sprightly pace, and the chance to see some big old stars kicking arse and taking names in their twilight years.

Willis teams up with Morgan Freeman (being a bit less noble than usual), John Malkovich (being even more crazy than usual), Helen Mirren (being as supernaturally sexy as usual, but with more guns) and Brian Cox (being more Russian than usual), and they all seem to be having a whale of a time. Willis is in stoic, pursed-lips mode, rather than the wise-cracky, one-liner setting, but he makes a fine straight-man for the chaotic turns going on all around him.

TV's Mary Louise Parker is a charming innocent abroad as the object of Moses' affections, dazed and confused by every bizarre turn of events before seeming to find her feet, she makes a fine fist of a role that could've very easily amounted to little more than "Girl the lead fancies. Gets captured at the end of act 2".

The plot becomes overly convoluted and some of the narrative turns are inexplicable and contrived, but it doesn't really matter when you are only really there to see Morgan Freeman punch Richard Dreyfuss in the face, Bruce Willis and Karl Urban engaging in an office-based knock-down drag-out, Malkovich running bellowing down a street with a dynamite belt strapped to him, and Helen Mirren rocking an elegant white evening gown and SMG combo. The film delivers these superficially satisfying moments at regular intervals, keeping the drag factor to a minimum.

There are foggy patches, such as Urban's young whippersnapper agent sent after Moses. He is introduced as a cold, calculating killer, before the movie attempts to humanise him by making him a family man and a reasonable guy in a manner that doesn't quite come off. This is through no fault of Urban's - he is convincingly hard and driven, yet personable - more of a sense of uncertainty about the tone of the character which leaves us in no doubt as to the eventual resolution of his story.

The romance between Moses and Parker's Sarah is also under-developed and a little forced, with her going from terrified kidnap victim to Stockholm Syndrome a mite too easily, but the charisma of Willis and Parker individually helps overcome any structural problems or lacking chemistry.

"RED" has been slightly beaten to the punch in the geriatric action-hero and rogue-government-agents-comic-book adaption stakes by "The Expendables" and "The Losers" respectively, but "RED" is more fun than "The Expendables" and Helen Mirren is hotter than Zoe Saldana. So "RED" wins. Just.


  1. I was sold when I saw Helen Mirren manning that heavy machine gun in the trailer. Genius.

  2. I loved it, very loose and silly, not taking itself too seriously