There are some perks to working in the media, and one of those is getting to see movies at film festivals before the general public gets the chance to gush all over them.
RED, the new graphic novel-turned-blockbuster from DC Comics, is most likely going to be a huge hit. If it’s not, that would be the fault of too little promotion for a tight, fast-paced genre film that should find its niche with the Fantastic Fest crowd of Austin and beyond.
Based on a graphic novel written by comics legend Warren Ellis, the movie tells the story of retired but restless Black Ops agent Frank Moses who is trying to get to the bottom of who has been trying to kill him for the last twenty years. Of course, the answer is surprising, and of course revenge is enacted only with the most bullets possible.
The adapted source material is given the best treatment possible with a powerhouse crew of Academy Award-nominated actors making the most of every single second of screen time. Director Robert Schwentke stays out of their way and moves the plot along at an incredibly quick pace that covers all the bases of the graphic novel.
Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovitch and Helen Mirren(!) compose the greatest gun-toting action team I can think of since those thieving young whippersnappers from Ocean’s 11. (Surely a better approach to assembling aging action movie stars than the uncomfortable creaking of this summer’s The Expendables.)
It takes a bit to establish Bruce Willis’s situation as a retired operative. But once the first round is fired, the conflict unravels easily and clearly. Through a series of clever cuts, each new team member is introduced, and the plot hints at a fully realized back story to their previous lives as assassins and CIA special operatives.
The budding relationship between Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker is a bit tacked-on and actually quite disturbing at first, but it is a minor contrivance to fuel the progression of the plot. At least Willis and Parker know how to have fun in the process and look good doing it.
I admit I never learned the majority of the character’s names because the actors portraying them have reputations too massive to ignore. It’s undeniably “The Queen” Helen Mirren shooting that giant automatic rifle and Morgan “Nelson Mandela” Freeman taking down his assailant.
John Malkovitch is really the only one who overcomes this obstacle and truly escapes into his character. From his first amazing entrance, he convinces you to stop seeing him as “THE John Malkovitch” and start seeing him as the loony and lovably paranoid Marvin Boggs who was experimented on by the government too long for anyone’s good.
Also noteworthy is relative newcomer Karl Urban upholding his rather substantial role in the film. Otherwise recognized as Bones of the new Star Trek franchise, Urban plays the CIA agent “just following orders” to hunt down Willis and his team. An expertly shot fight scene really had me convinced though that Bones was seriously getting his butt kicked by Die Hard’s John McClane, and that is AWESOME.
Regardless of a few necessary genre challenges (i.e. making a movie starring huge dramatic stars believable as action stars), I was thoroughly entertained for the entire 111 minutes of running time. The comedy is undeniable and all of the actors make the most of the time they’re given.
I really do hope people go out in droves to see this film. Because I want to see Helen Mirren get nominated for an action movie one of these days.