It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: action, romantic comedy, spy, thriller
Starring: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louis Parker, Karl Urban, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writer: Joe Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis, Cully Hamner
Budget: $60 Million
Box Office: $196 Million
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71%
After an entertaining break into the world of science fiction, I’d like to get back to some romantic comedy action thrillers! This week, RED.
Ex-CIA operative, Frank Moses is struggling to settle into the suburban life of a pensioned retiree. The bright spot of his month is when his pension check comes in and he tears it up to call his representative, Sarah Ross. Sarah longs for the life of travel and they discuss trashy romance spy thrillers. When a team comes to kill him, Frank realizes that Sarah’s life will also be in danger. He goes to Kansas City, kidnaps her and takes him with her on his quest to discover why exactly they’re trying to murder him. Pursued by a young tough CIA agent, William Cooper, Frank groups up with old friends and enemies from his time in the field. They’ll dig as far as they need to and go as far up the ladder as they have to in order to get to the bottom of what actually happened back when they weren’t retired, but still extremely dangerous.
RED is actually a DC comics franchise. And of late, seems to be the only DC comic movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously outside of Green Lantern. RED had a modest budget of $60 Million dollars and raked in three times that amount between domestic and foreign ticket sales. It garnered enough money that it did get an equally, not so serious, sequel, RED 2 a few years later. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich each being enough draws to bring people to the theater with the value added bonus of Karl Urban for the younger set. For pure extra star power, they added Dame Helen Mirren to the mix. Who I remember fondly from the comedy Calendar Girls.
RED draws you in much like the plebeian Sarah for a wild ride that leaves you rather dazed and confused at the end. There are twists and turns and who is setting up who to figure out along with a fun cast of strange and off beat characters to keep you interested. The premise is fairly simple, CIA agent falls in love with normal girl, his life is in danger so he kidnaps normal girl to keep her safe, takes her on an adventure and they fall in love along the way. Normal girl gets to meet his zany friends, actually shows a knack for his type of work and of course, isn’t phased at all by what happens once she accepts the situation.
As I said, this movie doesn’t take itself very seriously. And while it could get grim and dark, the movie threatens and never actually goes down that road. All because the main characters are a step ahead of those who are doing the threatening. The dialogue is funny. Between one liners, characters giving love advice to Frank and everyone having to deal with Marvin’s paranoia, there is rarely a dull moment or a place where you can’t chuckle. Not only is there the romantic story of Frank and Sarah to draw you in, there is the love story of Ivan and Victoria as well. Characters feel like old friends to each other. Karl Urban does a great job as William Cooper, who starts off cold and as the movie progresses finds himself vulnerable and questioning his loyalties to the CIA. By the end of the movie, it feels like Frank Moses and William Cooper have a fond, mentor protégé relationship, despite being on opposite sides most of the movie.
There are also a few fun explosions that aren’t at all necessary and extremely over the top. The best I think is when Marvin uses an Eagle revolver to shoot a shoulder rocket head on.
The fights are extremely entertaining. They start within the first twenty minutes of the movie when Frank takes on an entire wet team operation. There is a tense moment between Frank and Marvin that could have ended in a fight. But, the best fight is the all out brawl between Bruce Willis and Karl Urban to the rocking strains of Back in the Saddle Again by Aerosmith.
Helen Mirren in this move was simply a delight. According to behind the scene discussions, she used Martha Stewart to base her character of Victoria. Marie Louise Parker also did an amazing job, especially during the earlier scenes during the kidnapping when she had to do most of her emoting only with her eyes.
As a romantic comedy, this is not really the type of movie where the girls have arcs independent of the boys. For a good part of the movie, we know that Frank likes Sarah. And while he and Marvin have a chat in the car about whether or not Sarah likes Frank. The movie doesn’t really come out and ever fully explore whether or not Sarah does like Frank, even when she and Victoria have a girl chat and Victoria threatens to kill Sarah if she breaks Frank’s heart. (Sarah seems okay with this, but given the way her life had to seem at that time, I really don’t blame her. I mean, what’s another death threat when you’ve been kidnapped, drugged, invaded the CIA and shot at.)
So, I suppose I should be taking a bite away of the cookie because of this. But, I just can’t. Mostly, because it would have bloated the movie to have all this dithering. And really, Victoria is just too awesome as she is shown to be just as capable if not more so than the boys and the entire point of Sarah’s character is she is the ‘normal’ girl out of her depth. Over the course of the movie, Sarah becomes for a bit more than just the ‘girlfriend’ and takes an active role in what is going on. If we do not encourage the baby steps in Hollywood, we will never get more of it. So, the cookie will not get eaten.
I can’t really fault the world building in this movie. It’s over the top. There is no way that a machine gun such as Victoria uses in the end action sequence would have enough ammunition to keep firing on its own past ten seconds. There is also no way that Marvin could shoot a shoulder rocket square on and have it explode before it hit him. So what? These are supposed to be elite black ops CIA operatives. At some point, you have to sit back and just go with it and accept the ‘rule of cool.’ This is a comic book movie. Over the top is the way it should be.
Really, I love this movie. It’s funny. It’s entertaining. It isn’t the least bit serious. If you are looking for a movie to relax and have a good time, this one can fit the bill. Five Gingersnaps.