Thursday, October 14, 2010
Of all the washed-up, washed-out, over-the-hill, too-old-for-this-shit, action-hero movies we’ve had thrown at us this year – The A-Team, The Losers, The Expendables – Red is by far the most amusing, the most clever, the most tongue-in-cheek, the most fun (and I say that as someone who mostly liked those other movies). And not just because it features the awesome Helen Mirren as the most elegant dame ever to wield a machine gun in anger. Though that absolutely helps. Sylvester Stallone and Liam Neeson can only wish they were cool enough to warrant the company of Mirren armed with an enigmatic smile and automatic weaponry.
Also, she’d totally kick the ass of that little girl in Kick-Ass whom all the fanboys seemed to think was so amazing this spring. Age and experience… age and experience. It’s nice to see a movie in which everyone is of a certain age and yet the film itself is totally devoid of cracks about heart attacks and Viagra and other shit that’s supposed to be funny about the experiences of anyone over the age of 25.
“Bite me, children, and go back to kindergarten,” Red sneers out gleefully. Hoorah!
Not that Red ignores the plight of the washed-up, over-the-hill, et cetera. Bruce Willis’s former CIA killer Frank Moses is sad and lonely in his retirement: He actually rips up his government pension check every month just so he can make a phone call to the complaint line and pretend to sweet ’n’ snarky Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) that federal bureaucracy is screwing him over. (Check this: Even the youngster of Red – Parker – is fortysomething, and only nine years younger than Willis, who will soon be her on-the-run love interest. This is downright subversive for Hollywood, and good on it.)
It kinda doesn’t matter why, but soon someone from Frank’s shady past is gunning for him – literally blowing his depressing little suburban Cleveland house to hell – and so Frank hits the road to whatever miserable Midwestern city Sarah is in, so he can grab her, all the better to save her from the bad guys, who know he likes her, and figure out what the hell is going on.
There’s actually remarkably little gunplay and explosions going on in Red – director Robert Schwentke (who gave us The Time Traveler’s Wife and Flightplan, neither of which seem like preparation for this) is sharp and circumspect in how he holds back on the action – so when that comes, it’s all the more thrilling/surprising/exciting/ridiculous.
Frank and Sarah grab his former colleagues Morgan Freeman out of a New Orleans rest home and John Malkovich out of a hilarious Florida swamp hideout, all to try to figure out who’s trying to kill, it seems, all of them, and why.
Meanwhile, hottie fed Karl Urban is on their tail, for some reason or other. All I know is that it culminates in a bit in which Willis and Urban beat the shit out of each other, and It. Is. So. Hot. But all the boys in the audience can ignore the delicious inadvertant homoeroticism and just pretend that John McClane and Eomer of Rohan are having a beer, or something.
Oh, yes, and somewhere along the way, they pick up Helen Mirren, a former MI6 agent now retired outside Washington, and Brian Cox, a retired Russian agent who longs for the old days of killing people for fun. Actually, they all kinda long for the old days, when you knew who were the bad guys and who weren’t, as this becomes kinda urgent when the ultimate villain reveals himself here and you’re like, Yeah, that’s so 21st century. Oh, for the Cold War, when assassins were professional and honorable, instead of the psychopaths we have today.
Oh, but never mind: Red is fun. Just keep telling yourself that. It’s all just good, clean fun.