I can’t believe the cast list for an adaptation of a Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner comic book: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Morgan Freeman, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine. And room for Julian McMahon. How on earth did this film attract such a collection of well-known faces? The director, Robert Schwentke, must have some allure of which I am unaware – the most famous film he’s done is probably last year’s The Time Traveller’s Wife, so I don’t think it can be that.
RED is a silly but enjoyable action comedy film. Loosely based on the comic, it sees Bruce Willis as a retired black-ops CIA agent whose life is quiet in suburbia until his house is attacked in the night by a hit squad. Knowing that his phone has been tapped, he goes to the only person he has been talking to, Mary-Louise Parker, a customer service agent who works for Willis’ pension office, knowing that she will be in trouble if he is. Together, they go on the run, Parker somewhat reluctantly at first, as Willis gets the old team back (Malkovich, Freeman, Mirren) to sort out the problem of who is after him, which brings them into conflict with Urban’s CIA agent who has been ordered to hunt him down.
RED (an actual acronym, standing for Retired: Extremely Dangerous, stamped on Willis’ file) is a nice blend of action set pieces and character comedy. It’s funny to see Mirren shooting a massive machine gun, the chemistry between Willis and Parker is charming, Malkovich is suitably nutty, even Borgnine and Dreyfuss have fun with their roles. The action is mostly fun, although Schwentke is not a natural director of fight scenes and gunplay – the scene where we see Willis use his skills for the first time, it shows aftermath and not ability; there is a certain rhythm to the action but it cuts far too much to display believability in the supposed talents of the people involved, using edits to invoke the drama rather than the action itself. The final resolution scene involves too much organisation and detail that is skimmed over in the rapidity of the occurrence; however, the film is entertaining and silly and exciting and a passable way to spend some time but nothing more.