Based on the short comic series by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, Red is the story of Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a super-cool retired CIA assassin put out to pasture while he still has his skills. He lives alone, with only a sprouting avocado and the phone voice of customer service for his pension (Mary-Louise Parker) for company. Of course, since this is Bruce, it’s not long before action arises and he gets to do really impressive things. Someone’s sent to kill him, and he gets the old gang together (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and the reason I’m watching the movie this weekend, Helen Mirren) to find out who and why.
There are some creative shots for visual interest, demonstrating this film was made recently, but in content, it could come from the 80s. That’s a compliment. This is an old-fashioned action comedy with a lot of appeal. Karl Urban (the new Doctor McCoy) is the slick, bad-ass antagonist, and I’m really beginning to like him. I like more the way that they’ve structured the whole thing as a bad first date/accidental kidnapping — it’s that kind of weird humor that keeps the Ellis feel in the picture. Plus, the entire Malkovich character, who has taken the undercover lifestyle to the limit due to his “daily doses of LSD for 11 years”.
I’m glad to see that they cast a relatively age-appropriate actress in Parker’s role. I would hate to see some Bimbo of the Year put in that place — she wouldn’t be as appropriately snarky or as believable as a potential romance. It’s nice to see so many characters and actors with experience, and that experience is shown as a good thing. Other significant stars include Brian Cox, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss, and Julian McMahon.
My favorite kind of action has plenty of humor, and Red is hilarious. Stuff blows up in totally ridiculous ways. It’s rare, these days, that while pausing the movie, I see an almost two-hour running time and think, “Cool! More to enjoy!” Given the prevalence of Christmas decorations in the opening scenes, this is a worthy holiday movie to accompany your yearly Die Hard viewings. This is the best time I’ve had watching a movie in a while. (I’m shocked to have seen reviews online that talked about how this action movie had too much comedy in it, or that the romance was totally unnecessary. It’s the blend of all three that make this so fun.)
Right now, both Amazon and Target have this Special Edition DVD at $10, which seems about right for a great movie night. I was pleased to note that the Blu-ray didn’t seem to have many more special features, so no need to upgrade at twice the cost. The extras include 10 deleted and extended scenes (about nine minutes’ worth), 14 “cast insights” (clips of them talking about working on the movie, almost a half hour in total), and a commentary with a retired CIA field officer (and film advisor), that I haven’t listened to yet. (Reportedly, it doesn’t have much to do with the movie, but it’s pretty interesting about how the CIA works.)
The cast clips were a neat format, the kind of info you get in typical makings-of, but arranged by subject. Also, I wanted to spend more time with them after the movie, so this was a nice digestif. There’s also “CIA Exposed”, five segments (six minutes) on dodgy CIA missions (almost so brief as to be meaningless, although featuring nicely designed visuals), and a trivia track.