The latest film from Robert Schwentke, ambiguously titled RED - short for Retired and Extremely Dangerous - both surprised and disappointed me in various capacities. Surprising in seeing the level of genuinely top class acting talent scattered throughout the film, surprising also in being one of the few DC Comic adaptations not released by Warner Bros (DC's parent company) and surprising in how much fun it ultimately was. However it also disappointed me for being, annoyingly, like every other action film I've came across throughout 2010.
The film tells the highly charged tale of retired CIA agent, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), struggling to adapt to his lonely and rather pedestrian life, after spending years jetting off to various destinations killing people. Through, seemingly, boredom Moses strikes up a relationship with his pension officer (Mary-Louise Parker) over the telephone which through inexplicable events leads to them meeting under intense circumstances.
Being on the run from the US government, Moses calls in favours from old friends. The insanely paranoid Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), the wise and battle-worn Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman) and an ex-MI6 agent Victoria (Helen Mirren). After jetting around the country with seemingly little direction or purpose, the team eventually discover why they're being targeted leading to some predictable but, nevertheless, satisfying conclusions.
It must be said Bruce Willis lead the line brilliantly in this film, putting in an old school Willis performance. Fans of the Die Hard films will undoubtedly be entertained by his contribution in RED. Though there's striking similarities unlike his most iconic on screen persona, Frank Moses is arguably a more likeable soul than John McClain, much more relaxed and romantic at heart as well as ultimately just looking for some companionship after years of being a cold hearted killer. His on screen chemistry with Mary-Louise Parker was terrific despite the slightly awkward yet comedic introduction the pair have in the film's first act - something which, bizarrely, wouldn't be totally out of place in most romantic comedies.
The real strength of the film however was in Frank's relationship with his older colleagues. John Malkovich was truly brilliant when he hit his hysterical best. He often delivered the best lines and made the film a lot more zaney and frantic, which worked wonderfully to counteract Willis' cool persona. Morgan Freeman on the other hand was simply playing the Morgan Freeman we've seen time and time again, but frankly I have zero problem with that. Helen Mirren was surprisingly delightful, adding a layer of elegance to a film littered in big guns and explosions, it also was clear for all to see how much fun she was having with this role - also striking a brilliant on-screen relationship with a former KGB agent played by Brian Cox.
Shamefully, the film fell on the same sword various other action films this year have unfortunately fell upon. If you read my reviews of The Losers, The A-Team, Salt and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Expendables, once again we have another film where the best the writers can muster up is corrupt, evil and ultimately faceless US government agents as the protagonists main threat.
This was made even more irritating because there's always that one agent who 'is only doing their job' - this time being Karl Urban - who inevitably helps the team by the end of the film. I never mean to get ranty, but frankly I've had enough. At least Salt had crazy f*cking Russians as the villains.
All that said, underneath the impressively over the top set pieces and strangely plausible romantic comedy which forced its way into the plot, the message RED was trying to portray was actually quite sweet. A story which attempted to address a person's issues with his own mortality, and that inability to let go of a life which essentially defines who you were.
It may have a high calibre cast and feature some extremely enjoyable outings from Willis, Malkovich and Freeman. However, like many to come before it, RED lacks originality, failing to add anything to a genre which has unfortunately regressed on itself in the past year. That said I'd still happily watch this bunch of pensioners over the underwhelming Losers, the tired, steroid-pumping crew of The Expendables and the frankly over-hyped A-Team.
See This If You Liked...
The Expendables, The Losers, The A-Team
RED is in cinemas everywhere now.