dir: Robert Schwentke
[img_assist|nid=1342|title=RED - Really Extreme Dubiousness|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=668]
Old people. What to do with them. This movie’s entire purpose seems to be just to remind the rest of us not to turn our backs on these wrinkly potential badasses.
Because, you know, just ‘cause they’re old, doesn’t mean they can’t kill you three ways from Wednesday.
I’m not entirely sure how Bruce Willis gets to swan around with decent older actors and pretend they’re contemporaries, but then, if that’s the least plausible part of this flick, it would be a doddle to accept. As it is, this is a total fucking cartoon that makes James Bond flicks look like documentaries.
This flick is such a cartoon that it makes computer generated owl and toy films look like actual reality instead of animation. In this flick called Red, or RED, or R.E.D, a bunch of people mostly in their late 50s and beyond, all the way up to Morgan Freeman’s tender 70s, show the young ‘uns that they can still kick arse like it’s 1989.
The title is an acronym standing for Retired – Extremely Dangerous, or, to put it differently, there ain’t no school like the old school. It is a premise so tired and so tiring that just typing it out makes me feel a tad sleepy. None of these main actors: Willis, Freeman, Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich, Helen Mirren or Richard Dreyfuss are exactly wanting for work. They aren’t sitting forlorn by the phone on Saturday nights desperate for some casting agent to call. So the premise, mockingly linked with Clint Eastwood’s Space Cowboys as an example of this superannuated genre, doesn’t really bleed into the real world. Though it’s likely that the dubious audience hook was meant to be some kind of older audience-goer bait, to make them think, “Get off my lawn, and, I really would like to see some old people besting some young people in gunplay and fisticuffs”, it seems pretty obvious that the quirk of having old people ‘act’ all young and stuff was meant to be universally appealing.
You know, just like when we appreciate it when grannies rap or oldies ride skateboards and play guitars while drinking the latest iteration of Spazzie Cola.
Maybe it’s an American take on the old people problem. Longer life spans, better health care thanks to a certain president, all this means is that older people will be lingering longer and stinking the joint up for the rest of us. So instead of shuffling off this mortal coil with dignity and making room for the rest of us to spend their inheritances on jet skis and bigger TVs, now they want to be gainfully employed into and past their dotage. The nerve of the fuckers…
Despite living in quite, retired contentment, in a house that looks as impersonal as a hotel room, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is somewhat bored. He is so bored that he strikes up a relationship with some girl (Mary Louise-Parker, indistinguishable from the repugnant character she plays on Weeds) over the phone.
Right there, that’s your first major implausibility: If he was chatting with a call centre babe on the phone all the time, she might have said her name was Sarah, and that she was responding to your call from Scranton, Ohio, but in reality her name would have been Seralapinda, from Jhaipur, and this flick would have degenerated into shootouts and high energy dance routines.
For reasons that are never entirely explained to any adequate level of sensible satisfaction (that matters outside of a flick like this), a South African hit squad (!) invades Frank’s home and summarily get killed by a man old enough to be waxing rhapsodically about the dim, distant olden days when Soundgarden were on the radio and the Smashing Pumpkins didn’t suck.
Frank sets out to find out who’s been trying to kill him. The scene cuts to a well-dressed man with a face that only possesses one facial expression (Karl Urban), who’s murdering some poor guy and making it look like suicide.
You see, Frank used to be a CIA assassin, and this new chap Cooper is also a CIA assassin who’s tasked with killing Frank.
And yes, we’re supposed to care who lives and who dies, but I’m not really sure why.
As is par for the shitty course, Frank rounds up a bunch of other old people he knew along the way, with the intention of finding out who’s trying to kill all the old people, and why. The girl he was talking to on the phone, and working the courage up to sexually harass or at least stalk, he ends up kidnapping, thus speeding their relationship up through the courting phase, so Mary Louise-Parker’s dingbat character gets dragged along too.
Morgan Freeman gets to be all lazy, John Malkovich’s paranoid conspiracy theorist gets to be crazy, and Helen Mirren’s Victoria gets to be all regal and murderous.
To care, for a second, about the ridiculous plot, would be an exercise so futile it makes playing the accordion or constructing scale models of the Seven Wonders of the World out of matchsticks seem meaningful in comparison. It’s an excuse for having a bunch of old people running around, with one slightly young person in tow, all for the purpose of letting Bruce Willis pretend he’s the same calibre and quality of action star that he’s been for the last thirty years.
I, I take that back about the accordion. It’s the Iggy Pop of classical instruments, and all who play it are gods and goddesses in this godless and tuneless realm we call reality. I don’t want to raise the ire of all you impassioned accordionists out there, lest your hate-motivated serenades outside my bedroom window each night drive me past the point of madness.
Look, it may sound like I’m saying this flick is stupid, waste of time and neurons, dendrites and other bits of neural matter that are way better off being destroyed with alcohol, but – um – wait, that is what I’m saying. It’s just that all of the above doesn’t mean the flick isn’t amusing and entertaining for a while, and then eminently forgettable. This flick, and I know this is going to be hard to believe, is even less believable and less credible than Salt was. Yes, face this reality, take some time to let it sink in: the carryings-on in this flick, like a duel between a man with a gun and a woman with a rocket launcher, or Bruce Willis as a leading man and romantic lead who we’re supposed to believe isn’t constructed entirely from turkey waddles, made Angelina Jolie look like a paragon of believability as she strives to save the President with her super-spy inflated lips.
But I guess it doesn’t matter. Frank and his crew get to kill a lot of people and restore sanity to the government by being what God and their country intended them to be: cold, sociopathic killers who end people’s lives and destroy families whenever it’s convenient. I guess the premise is not exactly new, but there was something vaguely repugnant about this premise. Early on there’s a joke that I think implies Frank’s character was in Chile in order to ‘help out’ during the coup that we thought resulted in President Allende’s ‘suicide’ by AK-47, and later mention is made of all the wetwork Frank has done over the years, overthrowing governments and destabilising economies.
And I’m supposed to applaud this fucker’s actions, and care about his survival? I’m surprised they didn’t throw in a grassy knoll reference either just for shits and giggles.
And later, when they’re trying to two-dimensionalise Karl Urban’s character by showing his daughter’s and family life, and how he’s like a younger version of Frank, are we supposed to forget that these people are professional murderers and torturers, in his case who murder people and plant fake DNA at the scene to implicate some other shmucks? Yeah,, I really care that you’re a family man, Family Man with One Facial Expression.
Helen Mirren’s character talks about taking on some contracts despite her retirement, because she craves the drug-like excitement that murder brings, and we’re supposed to chuckle because she such a grand old dame and reminds us vaguely of the Queen of England?
And this shit is funny?
I did somewhat get a smile out of Malkovich? Malkovich! as a drug-addled paranoid loon, but the ‘quirky’ thing was that whenever they describe him as being paranoid, his suspicions are always always always proved to be correct, no matter how outlandish. Most of the time he basically tells the audience the plot, just to have the other characters scoff at his statements as if to say “How absurd, there’s no way the script could be that lazy”, only to have events transpire in such a way that clearly says “Yes, the script IS that lazy.”
Hmm, I guess there’re times when I can take this kind of set-up, and other times when it rankles with me. By the time the flick gets to its progressively absurd denouement, I no longer cared, because no sensible person possibly could have. All they could really do is collect their things, put their shoes or boots back on, collect drink bottles and various wrappers, and stride awkwardly out of the cinema, praying that there’s no sequel, and that next time you’ll catch it on cable instead. About the only reason I set out to see this was because I heard it was based on a Warren Ellis graphic novel (the writer, not the virtuoso violinist from The Dirty Three), but if there remained any with or sparkle from the primary work, I couldn’t detect it.
Dumb fun, nothing more, but not really that well done either. It’s fairly sloppy in parts, and doesn’t benefit from being made by a lot of lazy people, who didn’t care about the end result, but just wanted to get there in the end. And what was that end’s purpose, eh? To say little else than the following:
Yes, old people, you’re still relevant and sexy, yes, old people, you’re worthy of respect and admiration, yes, old people, now I think you should have a lie-down, there’s a dear.
6 kilolitres of botox that Dame Helen Mirren and Mary Louise-Parker were paid in, in lieu of cash, with Bruce Willis being paid in scalp polish and Morgan Freeman being paid in sassy hookers out of 10
“Frank, I never thought I'd say this again. I'm getting The Pig!” – we’re all getting The Pig just a little bit, Malkovich – Red.