Monday, October 18, 2010

Love: Red

Red is a movie about John Malkovich stealing scenes and Helen Mirren firing a sub-machine gun and looking like a badass.  Alright, so that's not what it's about at all, but once you watch it I'm sure you'll agree that everything in between pales in comparison to the events just described.  Adapted from the DC comic by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, Red is the senior citizen response to what must have been the desperate Hollywood call for espionage thriller submissions in 2010.   Bruce Willis is only 55, so he's the baby of the bunch and thus also the film's featured player.  He and his bald head and action figure proboscis play Frank Moses, an ex-CIA black ops agent with a massive secret file stamped "RED" - Retired: Extremely Dangerous.  As can be expected, the government has it out for Frank.  So, Frank picks up a new girlfriend (Mary Louise Parker), gets his gang of retirees together, and begins to fight the good fight against the CIA young guns.  Everything key within the plot is expected; there are lots of click click booms and tons of very large weapons.  Everyone is having a good time, everyone has a don't-want-to-die death wish, there are many things happening that would never work out in the real world.  You know the type.  The thing is, though, that apparently all it takes to lift the 2010 espionage thriller action comedy outside of its repetitive, schlocky form is a solid cast and a good gimmick.  Red has both.  It gives you seniors who could trounce everyone in Knight & Day, Salt, and The A-Team while also offering you a gleefully happy 93-year old Ernest Borgnine.  It might seem silly, but that, ladies & gents, is entertainment.
Red is fluff.  It's flatly filmed and has plot holes everywhere.  Everything comes too easily and the romantic entanglements are more akin to Stockholm Syndrome than built-up love.  The script operates in and out of cliche.  Sometimes (and this is perhaps due more to the delivery) it seems quite clever, other times it hits the expected bit of dialogue right where you know it will be (taunting the retirees by calling them "old man" and "grandpa" for example).  In spite of all its faults, however, Red is delightful.  It's fast paced and easy breezy with the surprisingly consistent ability to provoke me to laugh.  Whether you like it or not, there is something comically brilliant about older folks getting antsy in the rest home and picking up the grenade launcher, just as much so the setting up John Malkovich as the paranoid, violent, maniac loose cannon of the bunch.   I'm not exaggerating when I say that Malkovich and Mirren make this movie a truly enjoyable, genuinely silly popcorn flick.  I could take or leave Willis, Freeman, and Parker (though her comedic timing and facial expressions do wonders given the limitations of her character), but I loved seeing Dame Helen Mirren find joy in killing government drones, and every minute Malkovich was on the screen I seemed to find something to giggle at.   Non-sequitors and ham fisted efforts that would never fly with the other actors worked pitch perfectly with Malkovich.  As Boggs, the wild-eyed agent who underwent 10-years of LSD testing, the actor manages to blow the top off his omnipresent (typically restrained or villainous) madness and just have fun.  He may be cashing in, but I'll be damned if he's not having a great time letting loose.  If you want to see Malkovich disguised as a bush, toting a stuffed pig, and just generally being the one of these things is not like the other part of the scene, you need to see Red.  Sometimes, it's the little things in life.  This weekend, Malkovich and Mirren were those little things.  If they make a sequel, it would be my hope that the focus is just on them.


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