Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Produced by: Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Screenplay by: John Hoeber
Based on: Red by
Starring: Bruce Willis
Music by: Christophe Beck
Cinematography: Florian Ballhaus
Edited by: Thom Noble
Studio: di Bonaventura Pictures
Distributed by: Summit Entertainment
Release date(s): October 5, 2010
Running time: 111 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $58 million
Gross revenue (as of post date): $64, 208, 979
Wickey-woo! Des Kaye here! You wish! You're back here with me again for another formulaic film review. See, I'm sticking by format, starting the review out with something that has nothing to do with the film in question. It's even started with a stupid little, quasi-comic (more tragic-comic if you consider that I seem unable to properly introduce a review. I can, I'm just lazy). Along with the other films mentioned in my previous review (Cemetery Junction), Hayao Miyazaki's latest film Ponyo will be reviewed as I am watching it tonight.
Red, eh? That's a vague title to so the least, but nowhere near as much as You Can Count On Me. But of course, these vague film titles must have some sort of significance so that you can go "ah, that's why the title is such and such." To save you the bother of a poxy pleasure, Red signifies the stamp that is given to former CIA black-ops agents who are "retired, extremely dangerous." This is the status that is given to Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), who has been living a quiet life in retirement, chatting to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a customer service agent working at Frank's pension office in Kansas City. He finds out in a raid on his house, after disposing of assassins, that people are out to kill him and goes to Kansas City to help Sarah, while Cooper (Karl Urban) follows his tracks.
Red is a bit of a mystery to me as a movie in terms of definition. Is it an action movie, a comedy, an action-comedy, a road movie even? It is this inability to define what genre Red is that also defines much of the action that goes on in the film. Before we get to the problems, lets go to the good.
There is an initial pleasure in seeing this rogues gallery of mercenaries gathered. We not only have Willis, but Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and Brian Cox. As a result, there is a real A-Team (a movie which seems to grow in my estimation as time goes on) kind of feel to this gathering. In there as well is Richard Dreyfuss and it is fantastic to see Ernest Borgnine again in a major feature film at the grand age of 93, and he looks at least fifteen years younger. The best acting role in the film must go to the wonderful John Malkovich, who has an uncanny ability to make cliché characters completely interesting. Although the eccentric paranoid Marvin Boggs is hardly a major step for Malkovich in terms of roles he has previously played, he fully inhabits his character and provides much of the films laughs. The scenes immediately following his meeting with Willis/Moses are terrific, the stuff involving a stuffed pig where much of the action revolves around him being unquestionably the film's best moments. It would be unfair to not give a little attention to Brian Cox, who does a convincing job of playing a Russian considering he himself is a Scot.
From a technical standpoint, the film is well shot and thankfully does not see it necessary to abide to today’s prime action-film cliché to badly emulate the cinematography of Paul Greengrass film's by shaking the camera whenever things go all hoo-ha. Florian Ballhaus gives the film a very crisp look, which would be attributed to the fact that his previous work (The Devil Wears Prada, FUCKING MARLEY AND ME) focuses on people and not action scenes. He makes the transition in genre well and does a pretty good job of shooting this film. Also, editing by Uli Edel is handled with efficiency and avoids too many quick cuts so we can actually focus on what is being captured by Ballhaus' camera. Nevertheless, the positives regarding Red stop here.
The script is rather poorly written. While gags of course do exist, Malkovich making his the most legitimately funny, much of them are poor and unfunny, which is not entirely the screenwriters' fault. However, structurally it is a mess. What at the start of the film comes across as a potentially interesting take on the rom-com by the end of the film has effectively defected itself to the category of poor imitation of the ensemble action movie, where no one gets enough screen time to establish their role in the film, and most of heinous all, downplaying John Malkovich and the stuffed pig.
We are thrown into an anomie of various characters popping up throughout the movie and given a plot point involving [INSERT HERE], that renders the whole romance which started the movie off completely superfluous to the point that we forget about it and at the end are like, "Oh yeah, forgot about them." Each of the actors, bar Malkovich and Cox are portraying a screen version of themselves that we have seen done better countless times before. Willis is back in a slightly more low-key version of the wisecracking John McClane we know and love, Morgan Freeman is doing his whole father figure/wise mentor again, Karl Urban runs around with a stern look on his face and Helen Mirren does her atypical Englishwoman character, but of course, it's FUNNY because she has a rifle. Guffaws of laughter roaring from the stands. Attention everyone, Helen Mirren has a sniper rifle and is talking casually about killing people, isn't that funny? Funny? I had my fill of laughs for most of the film by the time Helen Mirren came into the film, but there was one last laugh, once again provided by a Mr John Malkovich!
Direction wise, Robert Schwentke does the same job that many directors working in Hollywood have been doing recently, directing rather casually and lazily. I'm not saying you have to be a tyrant and do a James Cameron, staple gunning mobile phones to the wall; it just helps if you make an effort. The attitude taken here is a case of "let's get this done and put it in the can." Efficiency of the well-oiled machine, constantly releasing new films is something that Hollywood prides itself on, but in this case, like many other release, they have not made an effort with their films. Lorenzo di Bonaventura, producer of such esteemed films like the Transformer series (cough!), just seems to be making a habit of producing action movies which try to milk the cash cow that most executives seem to view their audiences as.
Earlier on I mentioned the fact that I could not find give an appropriate definition of genre to Red. The problem that emerges with Red’s lack of concrete definition in genre is not that you need to be able to define genre boundaries (although it does help). The problem is the fact the filmmakers and producers launch the film into chaos by attempting to spread the film out too much in terms of its appeal. In creating a Petri dish of a film, there comes with it if not handled properly a state of confusion that the audience are thrown into, therefore making the film more or less forgettable.
I don't really see what else I can say about Red. This was a shame of a film, for the opening section involving Willis and Parker, who share genuine chemistry, is pretty funny. Also, it is a shame that such a good Malkovich performance has to be in such an otherwise rather dull film. Red is condemned by the lazy attitude that permeates virtually every aspect of the process of its creation. I do not dislike it overly, but by God this is lazy filmmaking.
The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis - 4.0/10
The Thin White Dude’s Self-Diagnosis – Tired and hungry (ready to relax once I’m done here)
P.S. I realize the hypocrisy of accusing the filmmakers of laziness when I myself open stated my laziness at the beginning of the review for lack of a properly formulated introduction. Also, the movie's way to long. Toodles!