angelophile: (Empowered BOO YAH!)
[personal profile] angelophile

It's been a rather backwards-looking season at the movies and after a summer that's given us The Expendables, The A-Team and Predators, it's Bruce Willis' turn to step up to the plate and into his old shoes as the action hero of the day.

Okay, so Bruce did that a little while back with another Die Hard sequel, but RED is the action movie that's left to stand on its own two feet. Of course, it's not just Willis' show. He's the central character, but the plot, loosely based on the Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner comics and revolving around a group of retired CIA and secret service agents who suddenly find themselves on a hit list, gives a chance for other actors... of a certain age to join in the fun. The posters make much of Willis' co-stars being John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman and Dame Helen Mirren, but Richard Dreyfuss and Brian Cox are also along for the ride, the latter rather poorly served by the publicity as he's every bit as essential a character as Freeman, if not more so.

And what a joy to see Ernest Borgnine. In a supporting role, perhaps, as his screentime doesn't add up to much, but he's a genuine screen legend.

So, a world-beating cast, then, but how does the movie stand up against the other nostalgic flicks of the summer?

The answer? Admirably, with the heavyweight cast of The Expendables and the tongue-in-cheek fun and energy of The A Team. Out of all the action romps of the year, this could very well be the best.

It's certainly not flawless, by any means, but it is hugely enjoyable and the cast seems to be having fun too, although Willis could have done with demonstrating it a bit more than adopting his trademarked deadpan smirk throughout, and Freeman could do his part in his sleep and, on occasion, seems to be doing so. No heavyweight acting is required, the cast are essentially there to have as much fun and the audience and they certainly seem to, particularly Malkovich, who's allowed to let loose with one of his bounce-off-the-walls manic roles which usually steals the movie. It comes close here and he's undoubtedly the best thing in it as Willis's suitably unhinged ally.

Karl Urban and Mary-Louise Parker represent the younger generation and also acquit themselves admirably. With Urban it's easier now to see what the producers of the upcoming Judge Dredd film saw in him when they cast him in the tough guy role, and Mary-Louise Parker is a joy in all her scenes, adding a very charismatic and human element to what could otherwise been a rather stark one-note movie.

The direction is competent, but there are a number of missed opportunities with the cast, but certainly there's nothing to dampen the entertainment factor, and the screenplay is a fun romp, smart, but simple, gloriously silly and barely holding together in parts, but for some duct tape of great performances and witty one-liners. But it's all to the good that the film doesn't take itself too seriously - the tongue is firmly in the cheek on this one and all the better for it. The pacing could be considered an issue - it takes over half the movie to collect the assembled cast, but once the gang is together, the action whips along with some hugely daft and nicely played action.

But whatever criticism that can be leveled, there's no denying that RED is a hugely enjoyable experience. Anyone who enjoys classic action movies of the eighties and nineties, which didn't try to be too serious and focused on character over flashy special effects shouldn't be disappointed. There's one thing the cast and the movie itself deliver in spades, and that's fun.

As for Willis, well, fans will be pleased to see him back on form in a movie that's much more in keeping with his action movie roots - daft, but all the better for it.

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July 2013


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