It seems bizarre how many over 50 actors are supposed to open action films. I keep wondering, every time I see Stallone in a movie these days, whether or not bullet wounds are covered by Medicare.
Red is a fantastic satire against this trend, if nothing else. Each of the actors appear as though their hips could give way at any moment (especially when they are carrying high-caliber weapons) and treats the farce of older actors acting young properly. But that is all it does – it seems to only have one joke in its arsenal. Still, it is a very funny joke.
The film, loosely based on a comic book miniseries, follows retired CIA operative Frank Moses (Bruce Willis). He is living a quiet life, but the agency still keeps tabs on him and have classified him as RED (which is an acronym for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous.”). One day while calling his pension office and talking to his crush Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) a hit squad comes to kill him. Moses finds out that the reason involves an operation he did in Guatemala is being covered up, and seeks out his old team, including Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), Victoria (Helen Mirren), and Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich).
OK, the plot is actually kind of a mess. I had no idea who everyone was or how they related to each other until long after I was supposed to. It did recover in the third act briefly, but I could honestly tell you no more about what happened in the film than what I have listed.
I know that the film is supposed to keep us in suspense, but there is a big difference between that and just flat-out bad storytelling. Red definitely falls into the latter category, with its bizarre characters and confusing plots and the payoff that resembles a cartoon more than a film.
Still, I doubt that anyone involved in this project was expecting to create some sort of masterpiece of script writing. Or even a good script.No, we all know what the intention was – to watch things blow up! And to watch John Malkovich act stoned. But mostly the aforementioned explosions.
And Red certainly delivers that in spades, mostly because it does not decide to take itself too seriously. Most summer action films are inherently parodies of themselves anyway, with their caricatures in place of characters
All of that is definitely present in Red, but it works because the filmmakers seem to indicate that they knew the material would not be taken seriously. Willis’ constant staring, Freeman’s somber mood, and Malkovich’s insanity (why mention anything beyond that? These actors are just playing type) are all to be taken as comedy. This is what most summer blockbusters are missing – a sense of irony. They all demand that they be treated with respect, the same way that a child who puts on his fathers shoes may delude himself into thinking he is an adult. When that same child uses the time as an opportunity to take a few swipes at adults – therein lies success.
Red is a fun, mindless distraction that reminds me how certain people view films – as a source of escapism entertainment. Those people will have a lot about Red they can enjoy. But it is not very deep on any level (hence why this review is a bit shorter than usual) but I don’t feel sorry that I watched it. I feel even less sorry that I actually enjoyed it.