Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Red

Red. Directed by Robert Schwentke & written by Jon & Erich Hoeber.

Preconceptions: What's this? A movie not only from this decade, but one that's still in theaters? I had an extremely pleasant birthday ambush, where I was absconded back up to Canada to have a night of fun and frolic with my friends, which included one of my favourite things: going with the gang to see something recent in order to review it (my pleasures are clearly taken from the dank pits of inequity). I had very little time to prepare any preconceptions about Red, having heard nothing about it except that it was very loosely based on a Warren Ellis comic that I haven't read.

General Review: I know it's more fun for all concerned when I can come out of a movie, tear it to shreds with my mighty claws and then play with the bits, throwing them in the air with an adorable mix of playfulness and carnage. As soon as I saw the DC logo (with the exception of hiring my hero Chris Nolan, DC has made comically bad choices with their movies) I fully expected to come out of seeing Red with my glands full of amusing venom. But y'know what? Die Hard: in a Retirement Home was a lot of fun.

Much of the fun was strictly the beefiness of the cast (really, the only way to shove any more charm into it would have been to stick Ewan McGregor in there, somehow). I've never been a huge fan of Bruce Willis, but what he lacks in range he makes up for in presence. And really, as older guys who I buy as being able to still kick some ass he high on the list. Mary-Louise Parker not only pulled off bewildered but capable, but the character was written in such a way that I didn't want to smack her around for not leaving these action packed escapades. It was an unusual feeling for me to have towards the hero's love interest in an action movie and I spent none of my time yelling that she should be more person than pet (which was probably a good thing, what with being in a theater with other people and all). While I appreciated her accentuated crow's feet and the fact that she's only ten years younger than Willis, I didn't buy that she was old enough to be interested in Willis. The Hollywood magic anti-aging worked against her this time. However, I am willing to ignore this because of her otherwise excellent performance and because the director waved Karl Urban at me. Clever Schwentke, to know that he's one of the few men Doomwench and I both find distractingly attractive and talented. His performance in Red was no exception and watching him be villainous and walk around in a purposeful manner, was a good time for both of us (and the man can rock a busted up face). Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman were predictably great and I hope that, like Mirren, I can manage to still have sexpot leanings at 65.

Red wasn't just carried by the superb cast. While I used to be more interested in action movies, the stylistic choices of the last 5 years or so have bored me to tears. Slowing the action down to show us every painfully choreographed second of a fight scene is dull, dull, dull. Worse yet, it's patronizing. Yes, movie industry, we can watch fast things happen and are able to keep up. The directing in Red was much faster paced and natural. The bulk of the fighting and killing were done in a frantic, but unconfused style that I like to think of as real time with a tripod. The excitement was from the action itself, not the camera being jostled or slowing things down to turn it into a snail's waltz. The few times we did have a bit of slow motion or bullet time were when clarification was genuinely needed or to simulate a drugged state. Y'know a choice rather than a standard for every damned punch that is thrown.

Red is totally disposable and I'm not here to say that it isn't. It isn't sophisticated or meaningful. However, it's entertaining, something that I've found sorely lacking in recent action flicks. It's cleverly written, the humour is actually funny and not the usual groaner fair. The cast is killer and in a lot of ways it's like the Ocean's 11 remake with a better script.

Aside: Rebecca Pideon's character is really the kind of executive assistant I want to be when I grow up.

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