Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Red (2010)

Paper-thin, fleetingly entertaining action-comedy about a group of retired assassins who reteam to take out a public official gunning for them. The star-power driven black comedy that the marketing materials implied is not what the actual movie ends up being; John Malkovich's paranoid ravings, a central focus of the trailers, is mostly loaded onto the tail 45 minutes of the film (during which, I must mention, second-billed Morgan Freeman is nowhere to be found). The first act, nearly dreadful in its staleness, involves Bruce Willis' retired 50 year-old assassin excitedly reentering the intrigue business, along with his pension manager (oh, please), played by Mary-Louise Parker. The dialogue is tired, the action is lame and unremarkable, and the interplay with Willis and Parker is forced, saved only by Parker's natural likability. The movie reminds me of the similarly hit-man themed Mad Dog Time, in the way that it's paced as a series of guest appearances of the spies and assassins that Willis goes to for information or assistance; among them, aside from Malkovich and Freeman, are Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfus, and, as a rival hit-man, Karl Urban. It is disappointing to say that only Malkovich and Cox get anything juicy to work with, especially considering how effective the idea of Dame Mirren blasting away baddies with machine guns sounds on paper. Urban is strong and imposing, but no more so than when he appeared as a similarly resourceful hitter in The Bourne Supremacy. The whole thing is an excercise in futility; while it, no doubt, helped secure B.O. (and a freaking Best Comedy or Musical Golden Globe nom!) to have these esteemed actors going on publicity tours promoting their smallish parts in the film, it set up a star-power fueled film that has way more laughs and excitement than what's on display here.

Skip it, save for completionist fans of the cast, or genuine Brian Cox fans; the romance between his Russian ambassador and Helen Mirren's ex-MI6 assassin is easily the most charming, understatedly effective aspect of the film. If you told me, prior to seeing the film, that he would steal the film from such a high-wattage cast, it would probably seem as crazy as Mickey Rourke being the truly biggest badass in The Expendables. Who can ever tell with these movies?

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