Bruce Willis has had a rather strange acting career hasn't he? His bald shiny head seems unable to move too far beyond the cop stereotype; despite proving he can also play a friendly ghost (The Sixth Sense), a Prozac-addicted superhero (Unbreakable) and a really unlikable cock of a man (Hudson Hawk). Now, in his twilight years, he's the star of R.E.D (Retired. Extremely. Dangerous), in which he plays a retired C.I.A agent, which is completely different to his typical cop persona. It's spelt differently and all.
So yes, it's a Willis film, which should tell you plenty already. Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired and bored C.I.A agent who has in the past killed a lot of people but now merely sexually harasses social services employee Sarah, played by Mary-Louise Parker. My first problem with the film was why any moderately attractive woman would like flirting with a total stranger, who they know is a geriatric, in a work environment where there is a high risk of getting fired for it? Are the American Social services just that awesome?
Ok, So Prostate Examinations Are A Little More Extreme Over There, True...
Anyhow, some assassins come to kill Moses, so he goes all Sam Fisher on their asses in an action scene that, while over the top, is a lot of fun. Got to love how the stealthy wet-work assassin team sent to kill Frank completely demolish his house with un-silenced machine guns though, cunning.
Already the tone is big, dumb and stupid. Being big, dumb and stupid can work for an action film (Demolition Man, take a bow) and here it also works, at least at the start. R.E.D aims for a fast and furious tale of O.A.P revenge on the system, almost for R.E.Demption of sorts (Ohhhh! It’s a pun!). But the film starts to enter dangerously stupid waters around the same point that Moses goes over to Sarah's house to kidnap her because... Um... The bad guys want to kill her too because she talks to Moses and they know she cares about him… Which I shouldn’t have to point out is devoid of all logic. Do they plan to kill Frank’s GP as well? So yes, Sarah really shouldn’t be in this film, unless this is all a dashing plan for Frank to bed Sarah by killing a bunch of people in front of her.
Come Here You Big Hunk Of Sociopath You.
The film continues in a similar vein for the rest of its running time. Frank gets back in touch with other retired C.I.A agents we all know and love from every other goofy spy movie. Agents like the black guy Joe (Morgan Freeman), the crazy one Marvin (John Malcovich) and the hottest granny ever Victoria (Helen Mirren). There is an overly-elaborate plot that has nothing to do with the source material comic beyond names and the C.I.A. being involved. Surreally there is also a very silly appearance by one of my favourite actors Brian Cox as a Russian so stereotypical its a wonder he doesn't cossack-dance as his main form of locomotion. His name is Ivan. He drinks Vodka. He speaks english like the bad guy from Rocky IV, who was also called Ivan. R.E.D is already looking like an entirely silly affair that is not to be taken too seriously. Except it tries to be.
The films pacing suggests that some scenes have deeper meaning we should chew on, like the changing moral standards of the world and can evil deeds and the best intentions go hand in hand? Strangely, this question is not asked of Moses but instead of Karl Urban's William, the C.I.A agent tasked to eliminate Moses. This is a huge change from the R.E.D comics, where Moses morality was a very tragic counter-point to the brutality. R.E.D still asks some interesting questions, but this would work better if you didn't have John Malkovich's character Marvin chew his way on and off every set he's in, not to mention his constant attempts at humour based on oh-so-zany mannerisms. Marvin was the worst part of the film for me. He is just so forced as a character, so aggressively demanding of attention and yet so undeserving. Its not really Joh Malkovich's fault, its just hard to make a comedy when most of your scenes have nothing worth laughing about. Getting John Malkovich to say "Old my ass" and then pause for effect is NOT. FUCKING. FUNNY!
Seriously, Just Fuck Off
R.E.D also tries far too hard to explain itself. The plot is big, complex and riddled with holes, most focusing on the amazing Jesus-powers the C.I.A apparently wield. Dead vice-president? No problem! This just multiples the feeling of stupidity you get from watching. You cannot be big, loud and dumb and then try to make excuses for it, it didn’t work for The Expendables and it doesn’t work here. If R.E.D had just glossed over the plot-holes instead of pausing every now and then to try mend them it would have been a faster, funnier and better action-comedy. Instead it seems to think we can all be fooled into believing this plot is entirely likely.
It is far from all bad though. Karl Urban is fantastic as the C.I.A agent tasked with killing Frank Moses. He is given the burden of the heavy emotions (at one stage his family is threatened) and he goes from merciless agent to the real protagonist of the film very smoothly (His character being the only character to change through-out the film at all, unless you count the dead people). You may be surprised to find yourself cheering for him and his fight scene with Moses is probably the films highlight. This only serves as yet more evidence that Karl Urban needs to stop playing dumb action heroes (Doom anyone?) and play smart action heroes instead.
As mentioned earlier, Helen Mirrens Victoria is on call as the hottest retired killer ever (Sorry Solid Snake). She is one of the only really funny characters in the film and her romance with Ivan dances the line between silly and sweet very well. Its partially Helen Mirrens english accent making everything she does delightfully charming and partially the fact she gets all the most playful moments. She also seems the most dangerous, badass character and the best looking in a dress (Sorry Morgan Freeman).
Speaking of which, Morgan Freeman is just meh here. He is both the sick and the nice one and I would still go gay for his voice. Moving on.
Do You Think She Is Compensating For Something? LIKE A PENIS?!?
Overall R.E.D is a disappointing affair that just doesn't seem to know how to be funny but really wants to make you laugh. A film that knows its silly and seems almost embarrassed by this fact. Its got some nice scenes but nothing to recommend it above any other film out at the moment. If it had stuck more closely to the darker and comedy-allergic source comic this could have been an interesting one. As it stands it is my least favourite kind of film, the disappointingly average one.
Final Score : 2 out of 5 - Examples of How Bald Ain't All Bad.
See If You Like : The Fugitive, Die Hard 4, Really Silly Russian Characters.
Til next time!