starring Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Karl Urban, and Richard Dreyfuss
directed by Robert Schwentke
written by Jon & Erich Hoeber
based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis & Colly Hamner
Summit Entertainment (2010)
While Hollywood has been raiding the comic book shelves for superheroes over the last decade, they've also been churning out a surprising number of movies based on graphic novels and comic books that don't involve men in masks and spandex. If not for the DC Comics logo appearing in the opening credits of R.E.D., I would never have known this was based on a comic. And, once I became aware of that, I immediately started comparing it to another movie based on a comic book about guys with guns up against the C.I.A. That movie was called The Losers and it wasn't all that great.
R.E.D. is helped a good deal by a remarkably high-caliber cast. Getting just a couple of these actors in a movie is quite a get, so I have to wonder how many incriminating photos the director, Robert Schwentke, or whoever, has on the likes of John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. The movie's got explosions, snappy one-liners, gun fights, fist fights, and a car chase or two for seasoning, but I wonder how much of this would wow me if it was a cast of derelict actors. My guess: not much.
The movie starts out with a bit of an odd duck feel, as Bruce Willis plays Frank, a retired C.I.A. black ops agent whose only joy in life comes from a monthly phone call to a customer service rep, as they lament their boring lives and casually flirt with each other. Ten minutes of this and I was wondering if I'd picked up the wrong movie, but the action ramped up fast as the henchmen with guns go after Frank, dying in quick fashion as the old guy is as good as he ever was apparently. But, he believes they found him because of his phone calls to the cute customer service rep, so he hauls as to her house and saves her. She's understandably freaked out by his unannounced arrival, but he explains that she's a target and then more guys with guns arrive to back up that claim. At this point, I wondered if Frank was simply paranoid and she was not a target at all, but then it turned out she was. It kind of stuck in my craw a bit--didn't even know I had a craw--but I went with it and enjoyed the rest of the movie.
With a seemingly limitless number of bad guys, and a couple bad girls, after him, Frank discovers there are others being targeted for termination, and it all revolves around a botched mission in Guatemala. And with the C.I.A. after him too, he has to evade capture, being killed, and still figure out who is behind the killings. This mystery might look better on paper, but for me, it served as mild distraction from what this movie did best: blow stuff up.
I was unconcerned with the intricacies of plot, as far as this movie goes, though. What I wanted to see, and relished every second of, was the likes of Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Brian Cox playing bad-ass action stars. Helen Mirren was especially awesome rocking the firearms with a Martha Stewart haircut. As for Bruce Willis, he delivers what he's known for, and his donnybrook with Karl Urban was one of the best parts of the movie for me. The ending was rather ho-hum compared to the eighty minutes that preceded it, but I wasn't really expecting this movie to hit it out of the park.
The Bourne Identity this is not. Thankfully, however, it's not The Losers either.