I normally only review movies with clear geek appeal and action movies are not uniquely enjoyed by geeks. But since Red is based on a comic published by DC, I figured it has just enough connection to geek culture to warrant a review, since I have the time. As is ironically often the case (given my comic book fanaticism), I have not read the original DC comic and so am reviewing this movie based only on its own merits.
Red features an ensemble cast led by Bruce Willis, playing former CIA black operative Frank Moses. Each person in this group of protagonists is former-something. CIA, KGB, MI6, etc. And they were all the best at what they did. Now they're all retired, but someone is looking to knock them all off to clean up a "mess" from a mission they were all a part of in the 80's. Dragged along for the action is Frank's would-be girlfriend, who he has been talking to on the phone for months but meets for the first time just as people start trying to kill him.
Fantastic Balance of Action and Humor
This movie is fun from beginning to end. Plenty of laughs to be had as these unusual characters interact with each other. John Malkovich in particular is well cast in his role as former experimental test subject. But the laughs don't equate to a lack of intensity or danger. Until nearly the last frame of this movie I was concerned for all of our heroes and never felt "safe". In this regard, the tone of the movie is a fantastic balance of action and humor.
In the first half of the movie, there are some extremely cool visuals incorporating slow motion, at least one of which I have never seen anything like before. (A spinning car. Slow motion. Bruce Willis. You'll know it when you see it.) And Frank Moses uses some cool MacGyver-like ideas once or twice that I found surprising and clever.
The second half of the movie changes significantly from the first, however. Right around the halfway point, things suddenly become slower and less explosive. The plot is moving forward nicely, but the creative action visuals are nearly dried up by half-time. What starts as a wild action flick settles into a spy/espionage movie. I think they might have been better off starting with that feel and placing the best visuals/action in the second half. As it is, the movie loses momentum noticeably.
Not Much Worthwhile Discussion but Enjoyable Characters
The movie doesn't lend itself to much worthwhile discussion. Though in one exchange of note, Frank's "girlfriend" says that "people are basically decent", to which he replies, "that hasn't been my experience". The idea that "people are basically decent/good" is a common belief in pop-culture. The problem is that the definitions of "basically" and "good" are both left unexamined when this statement is made, resulting in a false sense of self-righteousness. Although one could argue that Frank's experience does not represent the norm, I still appreciated some form of counter argument being presented in response to this all too quickly ingested assumption.
Although it missed some opportunities to create something really incredible, Red is a fun action flick with a few really cool visuals and some really enjoyable characters.
Red is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language.
What Others Are Saying:
Crosswalk: The bulk of the cast may qualify for AARP card-carrying status, but it's a serious mistake to underestimate their strength.
PreviewOnline: Entertainment: , Content <> Only viewers who can tolerate constant and intense violence will find this film entertaining. Even much of the humor embraces violence. Quality loses once again to mediocrity.
ChristianityToday: Bruce Willis fronts an impressive cast in this enjoyable light action-comedy.
PluggedInOnline: This film is so well cast, paced and balanced that you almost forget it's about killing people. Somehow worse that that, though, is the fact that the film makes the gun blazing look so cool.