Archive for Helen Mirren

RED 2 (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, All-Star Casts, Barry Dejasu Columns, Based on Comic Book, Bruce Willis Films, Buddy Movies, Campy Movies, Comedies, Fun Stuff!, Government Agents with tags , , , , , , on July 23, 2013 by knifefighter

RED 2 (2013)
Movie Review by Barry Lee Dejasu

RED2PosterSeveral months after the events of RED (2010), former CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is trying to happily move on with his life, now truly retired and living with his girl Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker).  When Frank’s old buddy Marvin (John Malkovich), also a former CIA agent (but with a bad case of paranoid eccentricity due to decades of LSD experimentation), shows up, it’s clear that trouble won’t be far behind…and sure enough, trouble comes for them, in spades.  With conspiracies, assassins, and weapons of mass destruction abound, it’s up to Frank and his R.E.D (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) friends to save the day again.

Director Dean Parisot (best known for his 1999 film GALAXY QUEST) turns in a decent action-comedy with RED 2.  The film is rated PG-13, which is understandable, since it’s aiming for a widespread audience; as a result, there are numbers of pulled punches—sometimes literally, as an early fight sequence left me a little confused as to what was happening at times.  There’s lots of gunplay, fistfights, and explosions, and a few well-staged sequences, but nothing particularly new or unusual—which was probably the idea, since the movie is played more for laughs than anything else.  Still, a few of the fight scenes might benefit from an “Unrated” cut, and one can hope that such may show up on the eventual home video release.

Like with the first film, however, what I enjoyed most in RED 2 was its cast, which, even with an occasionally stilted conversation (more on that later), gets along very nicely, and works together well in some genuinely screwy scenes.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

 “You haven’t killed anybody in months,” Marvin says at one point, and the same could be said for Willis at this point in his career, with A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION having been released just earlier this year. Bruce Willis has become one of the main go-to guys for action movies the past couple of decades; generally speaking, his presence brings a fun and laid-back (yet simultaneously rugged and smarmy) presence in the middle of the cinematic chaos—and this movie is no exception; he nicely chews up the scenes with his relaxed (and occasionally grumpy) persona, and while this vehicle is nothing new or unusual for him, it’s hard to ignore his charm.

Mary-Louise Parker is a hoot in her return as Sarah.  Although her character is now quite familiar with Frank’s former career and skills, she’s also his dedicated lover, and will do anything to help him—including eagerly stepping in to fight alongside him in every situation he’s faced with.  This of course leads to much bickering about her safety versus his, and more than a few times she has to “prove” herself in action.  If you think Mary-Louise Parker can’t handle an action scene, well, think again—that’s the whole idea with her here, and because she’s a capable actress, it worked quite nicely.  (Coincidentally, Parker also appears in this past week’s fellow acronymic action-comedy R.I.P.D., directed by the original RED’s director, Robert Schwentke!)

Now, traditionally, I’ve disliked John Malkovich as an actor; I find him to be very hammy and more than a little unpleasant most of the time, even when he’s portraying (allegedly) sympathetic characters; yet, I have softened a bit towards him in recent years, and that reason, I now realize, began with RED, and continues now in RED 2.  He portrays Marvin in a very goofy, dopey-eyed manner, and I genuinely laughed a few times with him in these films.

Dame Helen Mirren steals every scene she’s in, which is to be expected when you put an automatic weapon into the hands of the Academy Award-winning actress.  She portrays Victoria every bit as tongue-in-cheek as she did the first time, coolly portraying a charming lady who’s more than ready to deliver asskickery.  (There’s also one scene of hers in particular, which I won’t spoil, that had me seriously cracking up; I’ll just say that for anyone who’s familiar with her career, it’s a real treat.)

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Alongside Malkovich, Byung-Hun Lee was the real surprise for me in this film.  Previously, I’d only seen him in the two G.I. JOE films of recent years – coincidentally alongside Willis in the second one; and as a result, I didn’t really have much of an opinion of him.  Here, however, I got to witness just how charismatic he can be, and he’s gracefully capable of some truly jaw-dropping stunts.  He was also very funny, which went a long way towards fleshing out his role as Han Cho Bai, a contract killer seeking revenge.  (“You stole my plane!”)

When Catherine Zeta-Jones appears, everything seems to stand still—and I’m not just saying that as a longtime fan of the actress (here portraying former KGB agent Katja, also an ex-flame of Frank’s).  She comes sweeping across the screen, in full movie star glamour, just before delivering a hard kiss on Frank (much to Sarah’s disgust).  Her screen time is unfortunately a bit limited, and her character’s nature a bit uneven, but if the filmmakers were seeking a memorable and gorgeous actress for the role, then they succeeded.

It’s also quite funny that Anthony Hopkins is in this film, and for more than one reason.  As an eccentric scientist (and weapons maker) being kept in a mental institution, Hopkins turns in a rare comedic role in this film.  Oddly enough, he has starred alongside not only Jones and Mirren in previous films (respectively in 1998’s THE MASK OF ZORRO and last year’s HITCHCOCK), but even has a face-to-face appearance with “the other Hannibal Lecter” himself, Brian Cox (1986’s MANHUNT).

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Like the first film, RED 2 is based on characters and a general setup from the DC Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.  This film takes a nice wink at this origin with various screen shots of the actors transitioning into stills of their respective comic characters; it helped serve as a reminder that this isn’t a film to be taken too seriously, and thus was all the easier to enjoy.

That said, there were times where I found the plot kind of hard to follow (mostly in the shell game of different characters’ shifting loyalties and/or revealing their true natures), and there were a few stretches of wooden dialogue, but then again, the script (written by the first film’s team of brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber) exists solely to set up one funny scene after another, and it works well for that.

So ultimately, RED 2 was a bit of a retread of the first film, but it took all the elements that worked well and put them to good use here, starting and ending with a fun and enjoyable cast.  If you liked the action-packed screwball antics of the first film, then you’re in for more in RED 2.

I give it two and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

Barry Lee Dejasu gives RED 2 ~ two and a half knives.

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HITCHCOCK (2012)

Posted in 2012, Alfred Hitchock Films, Based on a True Story, Movie Directors, Movie History with tags , , , , , , , on December 4, 2012 by knifefighter

HITCHCOCK (2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

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You would think that with a title like HITCHCOCK (2012), you’d be getting the story of a person’s life. In this case, one of the greatest directors who ever lived, and the guy who gave us everything from STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951), to REAR WINDOW (1954) to VERTIGO (1958) and THE BIRDS (1963). But nope, it’s not a biopic. It focuses on just one year of the director’s life, 1959, when he was trying to make the movie, PSYCHO (1960).

Okay, PSYCHO is arguably his most important film, at least here in horror circles (and yes, even though we review all kinds of things these days, Cinema Knife Fight’s heart still beats in the horror genre), so if there’s a story there, it’s worth telling. But I couldn’t help feeling disappointed that this movie wasn’t more ambitious. I wanted to know more about Hitchcock than just one year of his life. I wanted to know where he grew up, how he got into the film business, how he got the ideas for so many great films. But we’re going to have to wait for that movie, and it most probably won’t have the title HITCHCOCK, since that’s already taken.

So, as the movie begins, NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) has just been released (another of my favorite Hitchcock films), and the director is wondering what to do next. He can’t seem to find the right project. Then he stumbles on the novel PSYCHO by Robert Bloch, and the rest is history, except it wasn’t as easy as you’d think. Nobody wanted to do this movie.

See, it starts with the inspiration of the book and the movie, Ed Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer who was big news in the 50s. It might be that the crimes were a little too fresh in the public consciousness of the time. And the case was beyond “sensational.” Gein didn’t just kill a several people, he also wore their skin, made furniture out of them, possibly practiced cannibalism, dug up his mother and slept in bed with her corpse, etc. But I don’t need to tell readers of this site about Gein. He’s pretty notorious, even now, as the inspiration of everything from PSYCHO to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974), DERANGED (1974) and countless others, as well as, more recently, a biopic of his own, ED GEIN (2000) starring Steve Railsback, who, you might remember also played Charles Manson way back in the 1976 TV-movie, HELTER SKELTER.

Gein was considered a little too lurid for the movies of 1959. This was in the days before splatter movies, after all. Herschell Gordon Lewis had yet to unleash BLOOD FEAST (1963) on an unsuspecting world. But, clearly, there would have never been a BLOOD FEAST if Hitchcock made that maiden voyage into extreme horror called PSYCHO. And you can argue all you want about PSYCHO being pretty tame by today’s standards, but back in 1960, it was the most extreme thing moviegoers had ever seen.

So his studio at the time (Paramount) wouldn’t touch it. Hitchcock then went to other friends in the business for possible funding, and they weren’t all that thrilled with the idea either (maybe it was the real crime scene photos he passed around at the party he threw to find backers?). Hitch ended up doing it for a low-budget (by his standards) and mortgaging his house to pay for it. If it failed, he would have been in dire circumstances. But, of course, we know the outcome, so the Master of Suspense’s story isn’t as suspenseful this time around.

Which doesn’t mean HITCHCOCK isn’t entertaining, because it is.

So why was Hitchcock so dead set on making this particular movie despite all the opposition? Well, the movie seems to suggest that the years doing his television show ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (1955 – 1962) had made Hitch a little bit bitter about his career. As the show’s host, he was now a celebrity in his own right, not just behind the camera but now in front of it. And your loveable Uncle Hitch was starting to feel like he had sold out. Given up his artistic integrity to appear in America’s living rooms every week (no matter how lucrative it was). Reacting to this, he wanted to make a movie they would never have made for television, something with a true edge that was more than a little dangerous. Something to put him on top again as a director who could push his audience’s buttons and throw a scare into you. Hell, he probably saw it as a need to FEEL some excitement again as a movie director.

Once he gets the cash together, he makes a deal with Paramount to distribute it after he does all the work on his own dime. He then goes about gathering a cast, including big star Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johannson) to play a character who dies 30 minutes into the film; an actress he was previously obsessed with but who got pregnant before she could become his “star,” Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), reduced to a supporting role in PSYCHO for letting him down; and a very high-strung closeted gay man, Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy), with mother issues of his own, in the lead as Norman Bates. We get insight into the whole “cool blonde” obsession Hitch was famous for (which led him to cast that “type” throughout the years from Grace Kelley to Tippi Hedren).

And once the movie starts filming, the problems don’t stop. Paramount, personified by studio head Barney Balaban (Richard Portnow) wants to interfere and see if the film is marketable, and he keeps showing up on the set. And the censor bureau, led by Geoffrey Shurlock (Kurtwood Smith) fights him to the bitter end about what can be kept in to get the vital seal of approval that decides whether the movie is released in theaters at all.

Somehow, Hitchcock is able to maneuver through all of these obstacles and get his movie made. His biggest supporters are his agent, Lew Wasserman (Michael Stuhlbarg), his assistant, Peggy Robertson (Toni Collette) and, most of all, his extremely supportive wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren).

In fact, it’s perfectly acceptable to wonder whether HITCHOCK is really about the making of PSYCHO, or if that’s just the backdrop for a kind of love story between Alma and Hitch. When they met back in England, early in Hitchcock’s career, Alma was his boss. Then, as he became one of the biggest names in cinema, she stood by his side, his most fierce and loyal supporter. She rewrote the scripts, she helped decide casting, and she put her foot down when Hitchcock couldn’t make it on the set.

But there’s a conflict in HITCHCOCK, because she feels unappreciated and is getting a little sick of being the woman who hides in the shadows while Hitchcock gets all the glory. She wants to make a name for herself, and she thinks she might have found the right project to do it. Her friend Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), who worked with Hitchcock previously (in real life he wrote STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and 1950’s STAGE FRIGHT), is always around, her closest companion, and he suggests they work together turning his most recent manuscript into a movie script. She sees their relationship as validation and a strong friendship, Cook might be seeing it at something a little more,  and meanwhile, Hitchcock fumes, convinced that his ever-loyal wife is now cheating on him, and he’s feeling abandoned by his staunchest supporter.

Working on a movie that no one else believes in, feeling completely alone, Hitchcock forges on. Until the moment when he gets sick, and Alma has to decide just where her loyalties reside. Like I said, it’s a love story of sorts, so you know what her decision will be.

hitchcock-good-evening

Of course, PSYCHO got made and became a humungous hit. Probably the biggest movie of Hitchcock’s career. But it is interesting to see how much of a struggle it was. There are dozens of times when it could have simply stopped production and never been made, and we all would have been poorer for that. Luckily, we didn’t have to do without this cinema masterpiece.

I found HITCHCOCK fascinating and highly entertaining, but it’s not a perfect movie by any means. And the biggest problem I have with it might just be Anthony Hopkins in the lead role as Hitch. The way he plays Hitchcock, it’s almost more like a parody than an impersonation. With his fat suit and bugged eyes, Hopkins appears to be in a perpetual state of constipation. Maybe there is some truth to this – maybe Hitchcock was one of these people who never felt comfortable in his own skin – but Hopkins plays it so cartoony that it’s hard to take him seriously at certain points in the film. When something that should be bad happens, you almost want to laugh when Hopkins responds in an exaggerated manner. It’s just very hard to take this HITCHCOCK seriously.

And remember me talking about Ed Gein earlier? Well, he appears throughout the movie as well. He’s a kind of hallucination that only Hitchcock sees, embodying his self-doubts and anxieties. Well-played by Michael Wincott, Gein is a spooky presence, but this kind of thing is always iffy, and it doesn’t totally work here. Despite Hitchcock’s insistence that there’s “a little bit of Gein in all of us,” I didn’t totally buy Hitch’s bond with the Wisconsin serial killer. It was a gimmick in the movie that seemed unnecessary to me.

The rest of the cast does a decent job grounding the film, especially the always-terrific Helen Mirren as Alma, even when she appears to be abandoning Hitch (even though you know her gripes are legitimate, you almost despise her for abandoning this highly talented but extremely needy man-child for the shallow Cook).

Two really great sequences involve the shower scene from PSYCHO. In one, Hitchock does the “stabbing” of Janet Leigh  himself when no one else can get it right. The other involves Bernard Herrmann adding his classic music to the scene – when Hitchcock originally wanted no music at all. It’s amazing how much creepier the scene is with that terrific, screeching score (and shows us how invaluable a great film composer can be).

If there’s one regret I have, it’s that we don’t get to meet author Robert Bloch, the talented writer who gave us the novel, PSYCHO. There’s a scene where screenwriter Joseph Stefano (who also gave us the classic series OUTER LIMITS, 1963 – 1965) shows up in Hitchcock’s office and agrees to write the script (he’s played by Ralph Macchio, the original KARATE KID himself, and his cameo got some chuckles from the audience), but no sign of Bloch.

HITCHCOCK was directed by Sacha Gervasi, who also directed the entertaining documentary ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL (2008) about an influential heavy metal band that never got its due, and who also wrote such movies as THE TERMINAL (2004) for Steven Spielberg and HENRY’S CRIME (2010). Despite its flaws, HITCHCOCK is a mostly impressive debut for Gervasi as a feature-film director.

All in all, a good movie. But, if I could have taken Hopkins more seriously, this could have been a great film. In the end, it seems to fall short. Someone as important as Hitchcock seems worthy of something better.

I give it three knives.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives HITCHCOCK ~three knives.

CKF COMING ATTRACTIONS: DECEMBER 2010

Posted in 2010, Art Movies, Coming Attractions, Science Fiction, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2010 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT COMING ATTRACTIONS: DECEMBER 2010
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  a festive living room decorated to the hilt for the holidays. Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares are sitting in front of a fireplace, both dressed in red. Michael is wearing a red suit, and L.L. is wearing white clothes almost entirely covered in blood stains, some of them fresh. They both hold stockings full of goodies.)

LS:  You got anything in there for me?

MA:  Yeah. Coal.

LS:  Alright!  My favorite!

MA:  Nah, just kidding. I got some stuff in here for you. (Fishes around in stocking trying to pull something out.)  I can tell you what we don’t have this month. Horror movies!  Horror’s just not on the menu at the theaters this month, I’m afraid. Oh well. We’re going to be unconventional this month.

LS:  Enough yakking!  What do you have in there for me already?

MA:  Oh yeah. Well, first we have— (pulls out a giant black bat that flaps its wings furiously.)

LS:  What the hell is that?

MA:  It’s supposed to be a black swan, but we only have bats under contract.

LS:  Even better. I love bats!  Give me that. (Grabs bat from MA.)

MA:  Anyway, on the weekend of December 3, we’ll be reviewing BLACK SWAN starring Natalie Portman. Since this gift is for you, perhaps you’d like to tell about the movie?

LS:  Sure. I’m excited about this one because it’s directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Darren Aronofsky, who previously gave us such powerful films as PI (1998) REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000), and most recently THE WRESTLER (2008). While BLACK SWAN takes place in the world of ballet and stars Portman, Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis, it’s supposed to be pretty dark. And Aronofsky hasn’t let me down yet. Despite entering some dark psychological territory, this isn’t the usual kind of movie we review for Cinema Knife Fight, so it should be interesting.

MA:  Winona Ryder is in it as well. It’ll be fun to see her again. Not that I was ever a big fan, but it’s more of a nostalgia thing. Her early appearances in movies like HEATHERS (1989) and BEETLE JUICE (1988) seem like yesterday.

LS: HEATHERS was actually a really good movie.

MA: So, do you have anything in there for me?

LS:  Here you go. (Pulls out a bust of William Shakespeare with fangs.)

MA:  It’s the bard with a bite. On December 10, we’ll be reviewing THE TEMPEST, a new film version of Shakespeare’s play starring Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones and Djimon Hounsou. I enjoyed Helen Mirren in the recent STATE OF PLAY (2009) also starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck, and in THE QUEEN (2006) before that.

LS: What’s the obsession with newer films? Helen Mirren has made hundreds of movies over the years. To me, she’ll always be Detective Jane Tennison from the top-notch PRIME SUSPECT series from the BBC. She starred in several of those.

Other great films she was in include the notorious “classic” CALIGULA (from 1979) and she played the wife in Peter Greenaway’s THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER (1989), one of my all-time favorite movies (and a disturbing one at that). Now those were great roles!

MA: And Djimon Hounsou delivered a powerhouse performance in BLOOD DIAMOND (2006) and so I’m looking forward to seeing him in this movie.

Shakespeare’s plays are always fun, and while I’m not as familiar with THE TEMPEST as I am with a lot of his other plays, I’m still looking forward to it. Should be fun.

LS:  THE TEMPEST is something a little different than we’re used to from Shakespeare. It’s one of his very few fantasy plays. And Mirren plays Prospera, who fans of the original play will recognize as a female version of the play’s sorcerer, Prospero. The fact that this movie is directed by Julie Taymor is also exciting. She made a very interesting post-modern version of another Shakespeare play, TITUS (based on Titus Andronicus) in 1999, with Anthony Hopkins. One of Shakespeare’s more violent plays.

MA (searching through stocking):  What else do we have in here for you?  Here you go. You’re very own TRON action figure!

LS (groans): Oh boy.. I hope that’s not as lame as I think it is!

MA:  I was not a fan of the first TRON (1982) movie, or of the video game. Back then, I wasn’t much of a fan of Jeff Bridges either. But he’s one of those actors who has grown stronger and better with age. I’d now have to list him as one of my favorite actors working today.

LS: TRON was interesting for its time. I guess it was pretty cutting edge in 1982, but it’s pretty dated now. Basically, it’s the story of a man who enters the world of a video game. Of course, with today’s technology, they should be able to do things the original film never dreamed was possible. TRON is, if anything, a cult classic now. I’m surprised Disney took such a big interest in reviving the franchise 28 years later. But maybe the effects have finally caught up with the concept. The movie will also be in 3D (of course!)

The trailer doesn’t really look all that amazing to me, but I’ll reserve judgment until I see TRON LEGACY. As for Jeff Bridges, I’ve been a fan of his for a very long time, at least since 70s classics like THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971), FAT CITY (1972) and THUNDERBOLD AND LIGHTFOOT (1974).

Not to mention John Carpenter’s STARMAN (1984), and films like THE FISHER KING (1991) FEARLESS (1993)

MA: Speaking of Jeff Bridges, we’ll be seeing him again a week later with the December 23 release of TRUE GRIT, a remake of the John Wayne movie TRUE GRIT from 1969, a film that earned Wayne his only Oscar. It’s actually based on a novel by Charles Portis.

LS:  Don’t forget your gift. (Hands MA a John Wayne figure.)  It talks. Press that button.

(MA presses button on toy figure’s chest.)

JOHN WAYNE FIGURE:  Howdy, Pilgrim. You’d better give this here movie a darned good review or else I’m going to kick your ass you mutha—.

MA (Shocked. Drops toy):  Whoa!  The Duke never spoke that way in the movies. Where did you get this toy?  Never mind. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to TRUE GRIT, mostly because it features a terrific cast, which includes Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin. And of course it’s directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. With the talents involved here, this one sounds like a winner.

LS: It’s nice to see Jeff Bridges working with the Coen Brothers again. He did the THE BIG LEBOWSKI with them in 1998. Maybe my favorite movie by the Coens and one of Bridges’s best roles.

As for the original version of TRUE GRIT, I loved that movie. It was easily one of my favorite John Wayne films. Not as good as THE SEARCHERS (1956) maybe, but pretty damn good.

MA:  And we’ll round out the year on the last weekend of December with a DVD review of an as of yet undetermined title, which means it’s going to be a surprise, so mums the word!

So, that wraps things up here.

LS:  Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Here’s another gift for you. (Throws a wad of crumpled wrapping paper at MA, who catches it.)

MA:  What’s this?

LS:  Trash.

MA:  What am I supposed to do with this?

LS:  Put it with the rest of your opinions, cuz that’s where they belong! (laughs).

MA:  Lame. Very lame. (to audience)  Happy Holidays, folks.

LS:  Bah, humbug!

MA:  We’ll see you throughout December with lots of reviews of lots of new movies. (presses button on JOHN WAYNE toy.)

JOHN WAYNE TOY:  You reach for that gun, Pilgrim, and it’ll be the last thing you ever reach for, you no good low-life slimy sonofabitch, you muther—.

MA:  Where did you get this?!

—END—.

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

RED … It’s Old People Blowing S#!% Up!

Posted in 2010, Action Movies, Campy Movies, Comic Book Movies, John Harvey Reviews, Spy Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2010 by knifefighter

When it comes to a film like RED, you have to walk into the theater with your tongue pre-inserted in cheek. The previews, trailers and all the promotion for this movie spells out that you’re going to see —a gimmick comedy wrapped in the trappings of an action/adventure flick. Despite the lineup of heavy hitters in the cast, we’re not looking for a lot of depth here.

The storyline (based on a Warren Ellis comic for DC) goes something like this. Retired old-school CIA uber-spy, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), slowly withers on the vine now that he’s no longer in the field. He lives a structured, dull life in some nameless suburb where the high point of his day is flirting with the government drone/employee, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), who helps him with his pension payments. Suddenly, a team of CIA assassins shows up and fires several million rounds of ammunition into his house. But it’s okay, Frank puts them all down like misbehaving children and then drives to Kansas City to gently kidnap Sarah. Why? He concludes that she’s a target as well, just because he cares for her. Right. This is the point where you realize that David Mamet did not write the script, and you need to suspend your disbelief to an altitude so high that it might collide with on orbiting satellite. If you can do that, you’ll have fun with this film. If not, you’re in for a hair under two hours of being very annoyed.

Following the kidnapping, Frank reunites himself with a collection of geriatric allies, cohorts and enemies to figure out why he’s a target. This includes kindly (but deadly) Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman); lunatic Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich … who steals nearly every scene he’s in); and the prudish (but also deadly) Victoria (Helen Mirren). We also get Russian ambassador Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox) and the guardian of the most-secret-of-secret CIA records (Ernest Borgnine, clocking in at 93 years-old).

Pitted against them is CIA agent William Cooper (Karl Urban) who fills the role of young, talented, but woefully-misguided whipper-snapper. RED also provides us with Richard Dreyfuss as the strutting, over-the-top bad guy.

Crammed tightly into this precariously-constructed plot are countless one-liners, sight gags, chase scenes, fight scenes and love scenes. All of which revolves around the films central conceit: we’re old but we kick ass.

Honestly, RED is as easily consumed as buttered, salted popcorn, but you never get the impression that director Robert Schwentke is shooting for more than that. So, it works. Though some of the gags fall flat, many of them don’t. Mary-Louise Parker’s understated sense of comedy and timing works very nicely against Willis’ intentionally heavy-handed approach to his tough-guy personna. And John Malkovich … —let me put it this way—if someone ever films a geriatric version of the A-Team, then Malkovich will make the perfect “Howling Mad” Murdock. As a cherry-on-top sight gag, RED also gives you Helen Mirren firing a 50-caliber machine gun in a slinky evening gown.

Speaking of Helen Mirren, while the love interest between Frank and Sarah is supposed to get the spotlight, it’s really the love story between Victoria and Ivan that rings true. Mirren and Cox give us some of the most poignant and genuine scenes in the movie, which makes for a nice break, considering the rest of the film is not especially deep.

If you’re looking for something that’s both fun and disposable, then RED is the perfect movie for you. This is a perfect example of an action movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and consistently brings the oddball humor.

Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Written by: Jon and Erich Hoeber
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary Louise-Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Karl Urban, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss.
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 1hr 51min

© Copyright 2010 by John D. Harvey

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