“Red” is one big bitter ‘Dagnabbit!’ to a smug young generation with their fancy computers and nifty technology. The brilliant cast is nowhere near as old and ginger as they were portrayed in “Red” but consider it the AARP version of “The Expendables.” Though just like old people, the pace was tedious in spots, the humor was flat and the action was mostly nothing to be marveled. Maybe the wine theory is correct; as time went on with the charismatic cast taking over, “Red” leisurely nurtured into a moderately amusing film.
“Red” follows a prominent trend in Hollywood, as it is based off a graphic novel. The story begins oddly enough with Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), labeled ‘retired and extremely dangerous’ Black Ops agent, continuously ripping up his checks for months; all for the chance to call and flirt with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). A cover up is green-lighted and Frank soon has his house raided by a multitude of hit men. Expertly, he disposes of the threat. Realizing his old crew and new love interest may be in danger, Frank hits the road.
The array of characters presented, the main crew is Frank, Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren). As already mentioned, the cast is simply genius. Having a veteran troup rather than decaying one was an excellent decision of the casting director. When the movie begins with only Willis, the film seems deceivingly vacant. Even when Freeman enters, there seems to be something missing. By the time Malkovich appears as the drug laden, paranoid schizophrenic Marvin, the puzzle takes shape. Malkovich is far from a consciously deep character as he is admittedly familiar with portraying. Instead, he is a driven though loveable mad man. He never lets Marvin, even in his outlandish antics, go too far from the character’s core to make us indifferent to his theories. Helen Mirren was the cherry on top. She has such an confident presence and gave Victoria an elegant poise about her. Only Mirren with her charming attributes can make firing a machine gun look so classy and refined.
The true downfall of “Red” is the script and screenplay. Written by Jon and Erich Hoeber (“Whiteout”), they decide to dodge tackling the complexities of the graphic novel to keep the mood light and predictable. All the while, injecting the eye-rolling one-liners and watered down subtle action sequences. Followed very closely is the passive directing by Robert Schwentke (“The Time Traveler’s Wife”). Schwentke’s lack of familiarity with the direction of action was apparent on certain scenes. There seemed to be no coherent flow, jagged at best. Casting Director Lisa Zagoria literally saved this film from the trenches and should get full credit.
This was an actor’s showcase. Without their inspired performances on an otherwise uninspiring production, this would be an unbearable disaster. Even with its initial radiating faults, give “Red” some time, it gets better with age.