In this very space not more than two months ago, Sand and I reviewed the so called movie The Expendables. We avoided the use of any profanity, although that was more the result of rigorous editing than intent. We did our level best to warn people. The movie did go on to be a reasonable success at the box office, raking in $225 million dollars or so, but we believe that our efforts in fact prevented it from unseating Avatar as the highest grossing picture of all time.
Such is the power we critics can wield.
Today, we went to see RED, the newest vehicle for Bruce Willis. THIS is the movie that The Expendables was supposed to be. It is a light hearted look at the cop/secret agent films. The story revolves around a group of retired CIA agents drawn back into the fray for one last case, this time to figure out who is trying to kill them. As it turns out, it is the CIA itself that is hunting them down, and the old gang has to figure out why.
This is of course first and foremost a Bruce Willis film. It is the bazillioneth time we've seen this character in a movie -- it is David Addison from the TV show Moonlighting, or John McClane from the Die Hard movies, or Korben Dallas from The Fifth Element (my favorite). Of course, if you don't like Bruce, this could present a problem, but I've always found Bruce to be very entertaining.
Joining Bruce is a strong cast. Don't know if it's coincidence, or if Mr. Willis "plays well with others" or what, but there always seem to be some remarkable performances from the other actors in Bruce's movies -- Cybill Shepherd, Gary Oldman, Milla Jovovitch, Alan Rickman have all turned in truly memorable performances opposite Bruce in the past, and the young Haley Joel Osment garnered an Oscar nomination for his role opposite Bruce in The Sixth Sense. This film is no exception. Morgan Freeman is delightful as usual, Karl Urban is convincing and entertaining, Helen Mirren is surprising and sophisticated in an uncharacteristic role.
Mary-Louise Parker and John Malkovitch give the most pleasantly surprising performances however. Ms. Parker plays a innocent bystander who get gets swept up in the spy stuff by virtue of her acquaintance with Bruce. She is flighty, quirky, and very funny. John Malkovitch plays a character that, as a result of a government experiment that exposed him to daily doses of LSD for eleven years, is just a wee bit strange. I personally think it is Malkovitch's most memorable performance.
With a PG-13 rating, this film could even be suitable for kids (not tiny ones) with suitable guidance from Mom or Dad that the Wile E. Coyote like violence is pure slapstick, not real, and you should never blow up anybody at home.
You may have guessed at this point that I liked this film. I do. It's fun, it's entertaining, it's worth the money I spent on it. This of course means that, now having my endorsement, America will throng to the theaters, clogging the entrances and fight for two seats together anywhere they can.
At least I hope so. I wish this film well. If you get a chance, go see it.
Like Bernie, after the ridiculous film, The Expendables, I wasn't about to go see another action film without consulting IMDb.com. The early preview-reviews for RED were mixed, but it did assure me that the actors I saw in the trailer in the movie would actually be in the movie. That meant that Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Dame Helen Mirren really would be part of the action. And that said, who wouldn't want to see Helen Mirren set loose with a big automatic weapon? RED was a must-see.
Easy plot. Retired super agent Frank Moses, in his cozy little house, entertains himself by talking on the phone regularly with the woman who processes his retirement check. He likes her. She loves to hear his voice on the phone, as she is utterly heart-crushingly bored with her job and her life. Unfortunately, when an Evil Bad Guy decides to kill everyone who was involved in the mop-up of an Evil Bad Event years and years ago, Sarah the office girl is also targeted just for being a chum of the super agent, played, of course, by Bruce Willis. Frank and Sarah take off on the run, one step ahead of the CIA, recruiting some of Frank's old agent buddies along the way.
I love Bruce Willis and his films, even the ones that did poorly. Like John Wayne, he always plays himself, and that's the character I enjoy seeing. No other hero is as annoying to the bad guys as Bruce Willis is. He is the classic Bugs Bunny of action films.
Helen Mirren's presence was a bit of a leap for me, when I saw the previews. I just wasn't sure she could pull off the action role. Wouldn't she be a bit clumsy with the weaponry? No, no, she was not. She was beautiful, elegant, and smooth. She didn't "try too hard" -- she didn't look out of place in the role. She is gooooood.
The "bad guy" in charge of hunting down the old coot agents was played by Karl Urban. Now I didn't know him from Adam when he was in the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies, but I loved his performance as Dr. McCoy in Star Trek (Let's be fair: I loved his portrayal of DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy). I wasn't sure he could pull off being the bad guy. A pleasant surprise, his "bad" character, Cooper, changed over the course of his pursuit, became less arrogant, less cold, more humble ... but ... was really annoyed by Frank Moses, as well he should be. The acting had depth. I would not mind seeing Karl Urban again in action roles ... he can be very easy on the eyes.
Stealing the show, however, was John Malkovich, as ex-agent and nutcase Marvin Boggs. He put in a magnificent Looney Tunes performance that surely makes RED memorable.
Some of the action was downright silly, but it was supposed to be. I felt a little guilty at laughing hard at violence, but Bernie reminded me that this depiction of violence was more like the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote variety. It's a dangerous mix, the cartoon universe and advanced weaponry, but the sight gags had the audience laughing out loud.
I know that this is one we will own and repeatedly enjoy on DVD.