Movie Review: RED

Less special-ops than hip ops...

Bruce Willis may display less and less of that famous torso as the years role by, but even at the age of 55 – as his cameo in The Expendables this year served to remind us – there are still few who can marry quipping sardonically with being a badass (and occasionally killing loads of people) as well as Mr John McClane.

Disappointingly this alone isn’t enough to save RED from being the lightweight mess it’s turned out to be. Hopes were high for this comic book adaptation – based on Warrens Ellis and Cully Hamner’s much darker in tone 2003 graphic novel – yet what’s transpired is akin to Clint Eastwoods Space Cowboy’s riffing off sub plots of 24 – not even season one of that show, either, more like season three or (gulp) four.

RED – an acronym for ‘retired: extremely dangerous’ – concerns the adventures of a gang of ex-CIA agents coming out of retirement after a government conspiracy threatens their lives. The joke rolled out ad infinitum is that it’s sorta weird getting old – especially if you used to be a badass – and after 111 minutes of watching the film, I can sorta relate. Confusing narrative, befuddled tone and a script that doesn’t zing nearly enough given the lofty talents employed to deliver the words (Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and quipping his heart out, John Malkovich) mean that Robert Schwentke’s film considerably underachieves.

Like Kick-ass did for superheroes earlier this year, RED could have been an opportunity to subvert the clapped out clichés of spy movies – with the charismatic, relatively evergreen Willis onboard, director Schwentke had the perfect foil for an edgy, rule breaking film like that, sorta like Hudson Hawk with smarts. Speaking of the lead, it would be a shame if Willis, or the supporting cast, were to shoulder the blame for the films failings – I can’t think what else they could do with the weary material served up than the spirited performances they put in throughout. Never the less, after the woeful Cop Out Willis starred in earlier this year, the actor desperately needs a hit.

Bruce Willis next role is Die Hard 5 in 2011. Thank yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker for that.

James McMahon

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