RED (DVD Cover)

Cast: Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), Victoria (Helen Mirren), Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker)

Director: Robert Schwentke

Theatrical release: 10/15/2010
DVD Date: 01/25/2011

Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 111 minutes

Note(s): Screenplay adapted from the graphic novel RED by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.

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Review: Full disclosure up front: I'm pre-disposed to enjoy (or at the very least give a pass to) any film starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, or Morgan Freeman. I think I own DVDs of every film each of these fine actors has ever made. Imagine my delight in learning that all three were to star in film together. So it is with some dismay that I report that while I enjoyed RED, I also found it curiously lacking ... in what, I'm not entirely sure.

Bruce Willis stars as Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent, who finds himself suddenly and inexplicably the target of an assassination attempt. He knows enough about his former employer to know the agency has put out a hit on him, but why he doesn't know. In a separate subplot (and one that really doesn't work), he's arranged to meet up with a customer service agent that works in the Kansas City office of the CIA (that would be Sarah played by Mary-Louise Parker), who he's taken a long-distance liking to. When he realizes that he can't shake his assassins, he gets together the old team (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren) to discover why he's suddenly marked for elimination.

RED takes an awfully long time to get going. Sure, there are plenty of action scenes in the first hour of the film, but the story seems to meander, going nowhere. It really isn't until about sixty minute mark that the plot starts to gel and get interesting. The last 40 minutes or so are really quite exciting, which makes me wonder why the director couldn't have paced the film a bit better. Maybe it's no coincidence that this is about the time that Helen Mirren makes her appearance.

All the principal actors have an easy rapport with each other, and seem to be enjoying the roles they're playing. Only Parker as Sarah seems somewhat out of place; it's hard to believe that she'd simply go along with everything going on around her. I can imagine a re-editing of the film without her character and seeing it emerge stronger, though possibly less comical. And I guess that's really what her character, and to some extent that of Malkovich, is all about: comic relief. Still, it's weak and their scenes doesn't always work.

The final third of RED is enough for me to recommend the film, but I have to admit, it's a near miss here.


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