2010, Movies

RED (2010, Robert Schwentke)

This is an amusing action comedy about former spies coming out of retirement with shades of Grosse Pointe Blank and The Whole Nine Yards. It has an incredible cast and they are clearly having a lot of fun. But it also feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.

I think the decision to treat this as a comedy is pretty essential. I have no knowledge of the graphic novel but I cannot imagine this movie as serious – I think it might have been a disaster at least with this director. The premise is fundamentally silly and treating it as silly was the only way to go in my opinion.

Though the cast is great the script isn’t always. I felt like Willis was pretty wooden in the opening scenes with other characters – particularly with Freeman’s character at the rest home – and, given Willis’ history of these roles, both in serious movies and non, I wonder if it was the script or the direction that made him seem wooden. Things get better when he was more to do.

The movie is quite amusing and I laughed a bunch of times. But too much of the comedy is “old people shooting guns is funny.” And “Helen Mirren as a sniper is funny.” And “John Malkovich in a duel with someone with a rocket launcher is funny” And I found the whole thing way over-the-top in terms of the violence. (Which is one reason I don’t think it would have played as serious.) The number of times a building is destroyed or a wall or whatever because someone is just blindly shooting at it – well, at some point it’s not an effective “gag” any more, right? (There are too many scenes of people just shooting away for too long.)

The other thing is that the film really leans in to some action movie cliches of the moment which, 11 years later, feel extra tired. And they don’t really exploit them. I think there was a real opportunity here for parody or even satire which doesn’t really feel like it was achieved. Instead, it’s more goofy. And that’s fine, and I enjoyed it, but I think a better film would have used the opportunity of “old people shooting” to some greater purpose, to make fun of how much we like watching people shooting things in dumb ways, or what have you.

Still, I enjoyed it a fair amount. I laughed a bunch. And it was fun to watch this particular cast in this movie. Fun enough that I would absolutely watch the sequel.


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