Red (2010)

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IMDb Rating
7.1 out of 10 (view IMDb page)

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(Based on 0 Ratings)
MPAA Rating:
111 Minutes
Action, Comedy
Robert Schwentke
Jon Hoeber

Weekly Volcano's Review

Rev. Adam McKinney on October 15th, 2010

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I am not familiar with the graphic novels that inspired Red, but watching the movie I must ask: Was something lost in the adaptation, or was the source material as garbled as the movie? Not to say that Red is a bad film, but I think there is little denying what a goddamn mess the thing is.

The movie opens innocuously enough at the Cleveland home of one Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), which is a hard-as-nails comic book name if I've ever heard one. Frank spends most of his time, it seems, working out, eating healthily, furrowing his brow and admiring his neighbors' festive lawns. Sometimes he calls Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), the woman who is in charge of sending Frank his pension checks. The two have never met, and their conversations are conducted under the guise of business, but there's a quiet flirtation in their discussions of trashy thrillers and romance novels.

Then BAM! - Frank's house is attacked by a team of assassins, of whom he disposes quite handily. There are a lot of BAM! moments in Red, most likely because of the film's awkward melding of self-aware comedy, espionage, light political commentary, some shockingly dramatic moments and absurdly over-blown action sequences.

Remember that scene in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey when those two ugly troll things (Station) take a running start and slam into one another, resulting in a grotesque, writhing ball of flesh and hair that grows into a larger combination of the two trolls (Big Station)? Red is kind of like that big, hairy, grotesque troll thing - except instead of looking like Big Station, it looks like a movie where everyone involved had heaps of fun. But I'm not sure anyone could explain how or why anything happens.

And that's kind of the film's charm. Despite being packed with explosions, Red has a way of meandering along sort of dreamily and seems open to being distracted by any old thing that might flutter by.

Anyway, Frank decides that he needs to hit the road and save Sarah, who the assassins will surely be after next. (Never explained.) He essentially kidnaps her and takes her with him as he ventures out to find his old spy buddies from back in the day. (Frank used to be a spy; much of the exposition is left for the viewer to surmise.) One by one, he finds his old spy pals - a real Murderer's Row of veteran actors, including Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, and ... and. ...

Oh, John Malkovich. This is my second Malkovich movie in as many weeks, following the atrocious Secretariat. Here, as opposed to Secretariat, all of Malkovich's odd ticks and idiosyncrasies are given infinite room to breathe, and breathe they do, bordering on hyperventilation. Malkovich steals just about every scene he's in with his performance as a burnt-out ex-spy, Marvin. As Marvin rants on about cell phones and satellites, Frank tells us in an aside that Marvin was the subject in a government experiment that resulted in him being dosed with LSD every day for 11 years.

Now that the dream team has been assembled, there is nothing much left to do but dandily skip along through scene after scene of outrageous action. The maneuvers pulled off by the spies are ridiculous in their impossibility, but thankfully are creative and funny in that winking way in which you can imagine the filmmakers thinking, "Can you believe we're actually doing this shit?"

I guess if you're looking for a straightforward story, Red may not be what you're looking for. I still must say that I frequently had no clue why anyone was doing what they were doing. Little side dramas are started up and abandoned, people make the oddest decisions in moments of crisis and I'm pretty sure that every character but one or two dies several times through the course of the movie.

Adding to the weirdness of all the proceedings is an atrocious, near-constant score featuring a lot of slap-bass. The music gives every scene a chintzy sitcom vibe. Maybe that's the most appropriate choice of music, though, for a film where nothing is ever at stake. Everything's leading up to that last punch line and then - blackout! - Three out of four stars

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