Monday, October 18, 2010
Old Pros at Play in "Red"
By Skip Sheffield
First you should know “Red” stands for Retired Extremely Dangerous.
“Red” is a CIA conspiracy plot spoof adapted from a DC Comics graphic novel. It stars Bruce Willis as retired but extremely lethal black ops agent Frank Moses. Frank is bored and out of sorts in his quiet Cleveland suburb. His only diversion is lengthy phone calls to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker at her dewy-eyed best), a government pension employee who works in Kansas City.
The second thing you need to know is that this has an incredible cast of old pros having the time of their lives acting out ridiculous revenge fantasies.
You know this is a comic book right away when a squad of black-suited, masked gunman descend on Frank’s little house and riddle it with so many bullets the front porch falls off.
Frank Moses is of course unscratched, and he proceeds to dispatch his attackers one by one, as well as a second backup squad.
Then it’s off to Kansas City where Frank suddenly appears inside Sarah’s locked apartment. When she gets understandably alarmed, he gags her, binds her, throws her in the car and takes off for New Orleans. You just know this is comic book love at first sight.
First stop is Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), age 80 with stage 4 liver cancer, living in a nursing home. When Frank tells Joe the CIA has tried to kill him and he may be next, Joe is in.
Robert Schwentke directs at blistering speed, interspersing witty one-liners with amazing collisions, near-misses and huge fireball explosions.
Next up in Pensacola is Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich in his funniest, most over-the-top role ever) a wacky, paranoid survivalist who mistrusts cell phones, computers, the Internet and the modern world in general. Marvin has achieved his unique vision having been fed LSD experimentally for 11 years. He is perfect for this mission.
In Virginia the team picks up Victoria (Helen Mirren), a polished Brit with a lethal knack with a machine gun. Later Victoria’s former lover, Russian agent Ivan (Brain Cox) joins the band.
With a little help from Henry (venerable Ernest Borgnine), keeper of records deep in the bowels of the CIA, Frank will get the lowdown as to why CIA agent Cooper (Karl Urban) has been ordered to assassinate him. The trail will lead to arms dealer Alexander Downey (Richard Dreyfuss, as a snarling, sniveling villain), and up to the office of the Vice President of the USA.
The plot is patently absurd nonsense, with our heroes dodging bullets, missiles and flying vehicles and batting them away as if they were flies.
This is great stuff for the over-50 set, and I think kids can enjoy it too for all the action and mayhem. No one will ever mistake this for great art, but as slam-bang entertainment, at this moment in time it can’t be beat.