Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews RED

RED is awesome.

No, I don’t usually start movie reviews that way, but I’ve seen RED twice (the first time was an unfinished work print) and I liked it even more upon the second viewing. Now keep in mind that I have not read the comic book series that the film is based on (although I did read the prequel comics for the film) – and from what I’ve heard the movie is very different from the print version. I can’t predict how fans of the comic will react to the film, but on its own it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

At the very start we’re introduced to Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), and within moments, without a word spoken, we get a feel for just what kind of man Frank is: Reserved, meticulous, quiet. A man who has grudgingly adjusted to a scrupulously ordered life.

Frank’s only seeming contact with the outside world is with Sarah Ross (Mary Louise-Parker), a customer support person at the Veteran’s Administration who has been assigned as Frank’s representative. They’ve never met but have developed an interesting friendship over the phone and one can feel the potential romance simmering just beneath the surface. As I’m sure you’re aware just based on the trailers, Frank is ex-CIA, and it’s clear that his relationship with Sarah (however tenuous it may be) will soon be drawing her into his world, which is guaranteed to not continue to be scrupulously ordered.

When Frank’s house is invaded by a hit squad, we learn very quickly about the other side of his personality – his past life as a field agent – and based on what transpires, one of the best the CIA has ever had.

All this within the first 10 minutes of the film.

Along the way Frank meets a number of old compatriots including Joe (Morgan Freeman), who seems like he wouldn’t hurt a fly, Marvin (John Malkovich), a strung out, completely paranoid sort and Victoria (Helen Mirren), a lovely, attractive older woman with a killer streak lurking just beneath her genteel façade.

They come together to figure out who is killing off everyone involved in a black ops operation many years ago – and they’re all on the list. We have Karl Urban as a “good soldier” CIA agent who’s been told that Moses must be killed, but not why, the awesome Brian Cox as Ivan Simonov, an old school Russian spy with a connection to the group and a great little cameo by the great, great old actor who I won’t give away.

The cast of 'RED'

While the original graphic novel was written by long time veteran Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer, the screenplay was done by Jon and Eric Hoeber. Neither of these two fellows has an extensive writing resume (according to IMDB, anyway), but they’ve written a wonderful screenplay, full of little surprises, great characters, dialog, and tons of cool moments. They’re writing the screenplay for the upcoming board game-based movie Battleship, and suddenly my interest and anticipation in that film has increased considerably.

Then we have director Robert Schwentke, another guy with nothing that really stands out in his directorial resume. But here he does a fantastic job keeping the film moving forward, even when things slow down they’re not boring. The movie has a hip, kind of retro style about it and it doesn’t suffer from the awful disease of shaky-cam. I also enjoyed the soundtrack immensely, great music choices throughout.

As to the performances, how can you go wrong with a cast like this? Willis underplays it, making him simultaneously that much more menacing and likable. Malkovich is, well, Malkovich – which is to say insane in the best way possible. I always enjoy seeing Morgan Freeman on the big screen, and Brian Cox is also one of my very favorite actors – he delivers a performance that I can only describe as delicious (it sounds weird, but trust me, it fits). Karl Urban – the man is a rock, he’s so steady you could use the man as a building foundation. Oh, and can I tell you how incredibly awesome it is to watch this dignified, elegant woman named Helen Mirren tear it up with a .50 cal machine gun? There are no words….

And now I have to comment on Mary Louise-Parker’s performance…

Mary Louise-Parker in a scene from 'RED'

Because she functions as the fish-out-of-water/audience proxy, her role is critical. Everything right about her in this film is everything that was wrong with Cameron Diaz’ performance in Knight and Day: She’s likeable, funny and endearing. And because she goes from being completely freaked out to being completely “into it” over the course of the film, she could have jumped the shark on either end of that spectrum, but she nails it throughout both extremes and she’s somebody you truly care about – and will therefore understand why Frank cares about her as well.

RED was just a blast – a real fun ride – and is destined to be a movie that I’ll pick up on Blu-ray and will toss in the player three to four times a year. It’s rated PG-13 for violence, and if you read my reviews regularly you’ll know that I’m pretty sensitive to what’s appropriate for kids – I wouldn’t have a problem bringing a nine or 10 year old to this, and when it opens this Friday I’ll be bringing my 14 year old daughter to see it for sure.

Check out the RED trailer for a taste of what you’ll get in the film:

[media id=267 width=570 height=340]

[poll id=”83″]

Our Rating:


5 out of 5
(Masterpiece)