Ed reviews 'RED'



3.5 stars

PG-13; Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Julian McMahon, Richard Dreyfuss. Music by Christophe Beck, David Holmes. Edited by Thom Noble. Cameras by Florian Ballhaus. Screenplay by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis, Cully Hamner. Directed by Robert Schwentke. 110 minutes.

"RED" stands for "Retired – Extremely Dangerous," the classification given to a group of ex-CIA operatives in this action/comedy, so if you mention the movie's title on Facebook or in an email, use ALL CAPS, damn it! I received a note from the studio pointing this out – perhaps they are concerned that the movie might otherwise be mistaken for the 1994 Krzysztof Kieslowski film of the same name. Perhaps not.

Robert Schwentke's flick stars Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren, which is pretty impressive. Mary-Louise Parker gets lots of quality time with Willis, and Richard Dreyfuss (Piranha 3D) turns up in a supporting role.

Based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, RED has an elaborate spy vs. spy storyline, which I won't go into here because who really cares about plot in a movie like this? The draw is the cast and the promise of chemistry between the characters, clever dialogue and solid action.

The most satisfying chemistry is between Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker, and Helen Mirren and anybody. Willis plays Frank Morse, an ex-agent whose ennui is broken by phone flirtations with clerical worker Sarah Ross (Parker). They're fun together, although the age difference is shocking the first time we see the two in the same shot. Helen Mirren is delightful as a former MI6 agent – is there an actor working today with more style than her?

Morgan Freeman contributes a warm and funny performance – love the Sgt. Pepper outfit – though the handling of his final scene indicates lousy editing or a set-up for a sequel. John Malkovich gets saddled with the goofball role – his character was whacked out on LSD by the government back in the day and became an eccentric obsessed with conspiracies. Credit Malkovich for keeping the guy from becoming too annoying.

The dialogue is breezy and funny enough – nothing earth-shattering, but entertaining. The action comes from explosions and stunt people. A couple of bad guys get blown up real good, but the spaces between the one-liners and gunfights are draggy at times.

RED is a routine movie elevated by a great cast. Elevated enough to warrant buying a ticket? Yes, but I'd catch a matinée if I were you.


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