The popular theory is that the right side of the brain controls emotions, while the left side controls more analytical thinking. So the left side of my brain enjoys an intelligent story with creative execution, and the right side of my brain likes lightsabers, People’s Elbows, and explosions. An example of this is the right side of my brain loves “Armageddon” and the left side of my brain hates it. Understand? No? Picture the right side of my brain with a beer and the left with a martini, oh, or how about my right side is a ten year old, and the left is Roger Ebert.
Plot: Retired special agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) needs to get his old gang back together after he becomes the target of a government conspiracy. Shooting ensues.
Preface: With movies based on graphic novels, I think it’s appropriate that the reviewer shares how acquainted he or she is with the previous material. I’ve never read “Red.”
Left Lobe: I think the biggest problem facing “Red” is its lack of any kind of message. The main story, which tells the tale of a retired gang of special operatives that reunites to take on a massive government conspiracy, is an interesting one, but it doesn’t really say anything.
You see, our squad of agents wasn’t quite ready to hang up their oversized guns for good when they were forced to retire. So, it’s exciting for them to show the youngsters a thing or to by getting the band back together.
(And yes, Morgan Freeman does actually utter this tired line.)
But, if this story is to be believed, then not only have their skills not diminished over the years, but they’re vastly superior to those of agents half their age. Helen Mirren is still a crack shot with a sniper rifle, Morgan Freeman can still get the drop on his younger counterpart, and Bruce Willis wins a brawl with an agent who is both younger and larger.
Now, while all of those things aren’t impossible to believe, they certainly make for a flat movie. At no point are we led to believe that the older set are using their years of experience or old-school tricks to get the best of the youngsters. The senior circuit is simply superior in every way.
In perhaps the most maddening of those instances, the team is preparing for a “Mission:Impossible”-style caper, complete with split screens, quick cuts, and dramatic music. However, after that complex set up, the main part of their elaborate plan was simply to fire off as many bullets as possible.
The film is not without its charms. Willis does a good job playing a slightly awkward variation on his typical Bruce Willis action star persona. Mary-Louise Parker does a fine job with her damsel-in-distress role (although, a scene where she is kidnapped induced its fair share of groans). And, Helen Mirren manages to get some laughs out of some brutally dull lines.
Ultimately, “Red” doesn’t do a thing to make me understand why such a talented cast would sign on to perform in such middling fare.
Right Lobe: In high school I was in a sketch comedy troupe called “The Recliners.” Once a week we’d get together to pitch ideas. One of our members would always come in with some kind of bizarre “This movie” meets “This movie” concept. We’d joke that he’d go into a video store, (remember those?) close his eyes, grab two videos at random, then say, “OK, let’s do a skit that’s ‘Jurassic Park’ meets ‘Schindler’s List.’”
That’s basically what you’re getting with “Red.”
Retired secret agent living a quiet suburban life? Check.
Stuck-in-a-rut woman who’s thrown into an adventure? Check.
Wacky former operative who’s actual a tactical genius? Check.
Classy, older woman who’s actually a cold-blooded killer? Check.
(And seriously, if Helen Mirren had passed on that role, I guarantee we would’ve seen Betty White filling in.)
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of quality explosions and action scenes in “Red.” Mary-Louise Parker does a great job of being the hot action film chick while still looking and acting like a real character. And, a shot where Bruce Willis stands up out of a moving vehicle is twelve shades of awesome (it’s also in the trailer). But, I don’t think this movie’s stellar cast does much to elevate this piece higher than the middle of the pack.
Rating: Left Lobe down, Right Lobe in the middle.
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