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rochefort [Film Festival 10.04.10] movie review action

Year: 2010
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 5 out of 10

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a "R.etired, E.xtremely D.angerous", former government wet-worker who has to dust off the old silencer when somebody puts out a contract on him. For her own safety, he kidnaps the tele-secretary (Mary-Louise Parker) on which he's developed a recent crush, then goes out in search of his assassin buddies from back in the day, including Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich), and Victoria (Helen Mirren). Together they decide that the best way to flush out their hunter is to go on the offensive, even if it means taking the fight all the way to Washington.

I haven't read the Warren Ellis graphic novel upon which this movie is based so I won't comment from that perspective, but having seen the film, I have no interest whatsoever in tracking down the source material. It's not that "Red" is a terrible movie, it's just that it's so... fatigued, and in more ways than one. For starters, there came a point about midway through where I just gave up noting which other action films, some of them quite recent, "Red" was ripping off. Before I reached that point, though, I counted "The Losers", "Mission: Impossible", the "Bourne" films, "The Transporter", "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", "Wanted", "Hitman", and the list could really go on for quite a long time. And in every case of deja vu, the "homage" was far inferior to the source, despite the fact that a lot of the films on the exploited list are really only average at best. And yeah, I know there are only so many ways to shoot somebody or launch a rocket-propelled grenade, but if the makers didn't have a brilliant idea for how to bring something original to the table, maybe they shouldn't have bothered.

There are really only three things going for this one, no single one of them truly cool, but each interesting enough to at least recommend as something to look forward to if you're bound and determined to see it. John Malkovich and Helen Mirren seem to be at least having fun, Malkovich playing the paranoid nutjob of the group, and Mirren the classy older lady who's good with a sniper rifle and still takes the odd job on the side even though she's, well, classy and older. But what must have looked good on the script's paper seems only half-realized at best. Each of them gets a mild laugh apiece, and they get to play with guns and bombs, but neither of them has that moment of greatness the casting (and trailer) promises. And let's be frank here: when you have Malkovich and Mirren playing assassins, greatness should be happening every other minute. Instead Malkovich is saddled with a boilerplate crazy character the likes of which we've seen in about a thousand movies since Bruce Dern first started chewing scenery. The big problem in his case is that he's already played a much more interesting version of this character in "In the Line of Fire", and it's hard to escape the impression that director Robert Schwentke was counting on the association. You know, "like that Eastwood movie he did, but funny!" Mirren is basically wasted, too, with nothing but a hollow romantic subplot and a few cute lines here and there that remind you of how dangerous she's supposed to be. But despite the fact that she looks good firing an automatic weapon, we never really see proof of her killing talent. Her mystique is something for which we simply have to take the movie's word.

The last, and in my opinion best, minor standout is Karl Urban's dogged
young agent Cooper, who initially sees the chance to put Frank and company out of commission as his big ticket upwards. Despite a few missteps like the woeful "Pathfinder", Urban has worked hard over the years to claw his way to respectability, and for my money was the one actor in the fine cast of Abrams' "Star Trek" who worked genuine magic. Here the script gives him just enough to work with here as the ambitious hunter with only one real weak spot, but Urban pulls more from the opportunity than Schwentke probably even required. It doesn't hurt that, with all these other big actors running (actually just walking, really) around trying to be so darn cute, Urban's Agent Cooper can afford to play things a little straighter. If nothing else, his performance here raised my excitement level for his upcoming "Dredd" that much more.

"Red" clearly wants to be the "Ocean's 11" (the Soderbergh version) of action films, and Schwentke even goes so far as to nab David Holmes to co-write the score. But Holmes is just phoning it in, as is most everyone else here, and the sum of the collective parts feels a lot more like "Ocean's 12". Maybe it's the Willis curse or something; seems like most of his movies of the last decade have this smug conviction that the audience will find the jokes funnier, the action more exciting, and the concepts more inventive than they actually are. Or maybe it's just further proof that Hollywood gets more and more out of touch with each passing year. Whatever the cause, each scene, despite being cut as tightly as possible, never sticks around long enough to do anything more than further the next plot element along and have the requisite cute thing happen. None of the film's major issues have much to do with pacing, really, and the cast is plenty capable of handling pretty much anything they might be given, but the script and direction hand them nothing, and despite the peppy, slapping bass in the score that tries to convince us that this is "Leon" by way of "Seinfeld", the characters always seem to be on the verge of stopping for a nap.

Given that the subject matter dares us to believe that the old folks can compete just fine with the young 'un's in the action arena, the failure to give us anything even remotely fresh with the plot or set pieces seems doubly embarrassing. The fact that it fails with all these fine actors in tow adds the worst possible insult to injury.

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