Comic Book Movies 101: Red

A bit hard to look back on RED retrospectively – seeing that it came out LAST YEAR! But screw it – Bruce Willis is not one you’d expect to be a big graphic novel kinda guy, but RED makes at least his third (after Sin City and Surrogates). RED though is perhaps the one to be taken the least seriously. That isn’t to say it is bad – it’s great fun. And it came in a year when oldies in action films were quite the buzz.

Stallone obviously got the ball rolling with the hype on The Expendables (featuring himself, Willis, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren, Rourke, Statham and Jet Li!). Rodriguez then built it further with Machete (Danny Trejo, Jeff Fahey, De Niro, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson and Steven Seagal). We also had a return from the A-team and even a trip to the Predator home world. Action was back – and RED was in there with Willis leading the way along with granddads Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, James Remar, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfuss.

RED is perhaps the one that isn’t really interested in  blood and guts – but it is very interested in the comedic relationships between the old timers as well as a bit of pounding action to hammer the points home. The highlight is a well choreographed fight between Willis and Karl Urban which takes place in the office of Urban’s younger agent on the case. It’s a wild scene of pounding, table and cabinet slamming, furniture breaking and body throwing, and it works.

It’s all a case of shooting and editing in action scenes for the most part. This scene has both. In fact I noticed the editing throughout the film was pretty quirky. Example – a scene where someone is on the phone will end with their arm about to slam the phone down. Then the cut away shot showing the phone going down is in fact the edit to the next person on screen showing them putting the phone down. It’s a basic rule in editing today, but it’s a device employed so often in this film that you really get into the forward momentum of the picture.

It also has to be said that Willis – while  proving that he can still do action, is also coming off nicely in the charm department in his relationship with Mary Louise Parker.  Parker sells the comedy beautifully and even the goofy side to her character (in moments when she is under threat (even from friendlies) she stays completely in character which makes her so endearing – instead of just a screaming woman under threat. The couple do go through an arc, one which really hits the highroad when Willis has her tied up in the back of his car, her muffled complaints kept under the tape over her mouth, as he calmly tries to explain that he’s there to rescue her from the incoming threat.  And it ends beautifully. Resigned to defeat in the final showdown helooks at her and tells her the honest truth about his intentions towards her. It’s very sweet – and might have been bittersweet had the bad guys actually won.

To the rest of the cast! Well, Malkovich is batshit crazy in only the way he knows best.  And you half expect him to go out in a blaze of glory – so it’s something of a surprise that all but one of the good guys actually live (makes room for more fun in a sequel I guess). The British press of course loved Helen Mirren as a homemaker who takes on the odd sniper assignment in her spare time to keep herself busy. Personally I have nothing against Mirren, but she does kind of just play Helen Mirren here.  It ain’t a bad thing, but she doesn’t do much to surprise. A good performance at the very least though. Morgan Freeman, likewise, does his known schtick and gets away with it.

This leaves the antagonists – topped perhaps by Richard Dreyfuss. Karl Urban also gives everyone a good run for their money and is clearly the next action hero we need! And considering he’s now making Judge Dredd we’ll root for this to pay off (Urban has been in much since Lord of the Rings including a few failures – Pathfinder, Doom). His work in supporting roles in the second Bourne film (as the main physical antagonist), Star Trek and now this have given him a bit more street cred; so he can go out and conquer now.

RED made some nice bank, so a sequel is being penned. Let’s hope if it comes round they get more names in, keep the pace quick and the story amusing. RED can be watched repeatedly and remains fun.

Steven Hurst

Share this!