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Film review: RED movie

Wherein Helen Mirren demonstrates how to fire an automatic machine gun, which is: TOTALLY wearing a white ballgown.

Now, when I first saw him in ‘Moonlighting‘, I was staunchly undecided about Bruce Willis. Mainly it was that self-satisfied smirk. What did he have to look that smug about?

Hindsight shows us that, evidently, Bruce knew something we didn’t. Possibly many things. That Demi Moore would find him irresistible, or that hair would prove over-rated.

Unlike Harrison Ford or Rupert Everett, Bruce just improves with age. Ok, perhaps the first comparison is a little unfair, given that Harrison’s thirteen years older. However, I seem to recall that in Six Days Seven Nights (1998), Harrison was giving the famous Ford pop-eye to Anne Heche who was precisely half his age at the time. I would now express myself with a moving range of flatulence had I had the personality of a 15 year old teenage boy. Let’s all be thankful I don’t.

Anyway, we like Bruce (that’s the royal ‘we’). He’s just the type you want around when hitmen are dropping into your garden from a hovering helicopter. Or when you need to defuse a bomb under your kitchen. Let’s face it: there will never be a circumstance under which you wish Tom Cruise were handy (I can point at things quite adequately myself). Or Brad Pitt, because I can’t spare the hairdryer and, happily, my husband has more raw sex appeal and if you doubt me let me just refresh your memory.

What’s that you say: biased?

Who, ME?

Ok, well . . . SO?

Wanna start a Thing?

BRING IT.

Now, over the weekend we saw Bruce’s latest vehicle ‘Red’ at Top Town Cinema. So, um, I suppose it could best be described as a comedy action thriller with some romance.

Actually, ‘loud’ would probably have covered it.

Bruce stars as Frank, a retired ex-CIA black-ops employee, whose life revolves around pointless press-ups, growing an avocado plant, and tearing up his pension cheques so he has an excuse to call the Customer Service Rep. This is Mary Louise Parker, who – I’ll be upfront about it – ranks at the Jolie end of the scale i.e. (for those who are not familiar with my Tyler/Jolie Scale of Unbearableness) annoys the crap out of me, yes, even in ‘Weeds’. Anyway, in ‘Red’ she plays another annoying character, one who is more interested in having telephone sex with OAPs than doing her fucking job yet sees no irony in bemoaning her lacklustre love-life.

This state of affairs all changes when a squad of hit-men break into The Bruce’s house to rub him out. Bruce dispatches them all within about three seconds of screen-time by strangling them with his dressing gown cord.

Stopping en-route to pick up a protesting Mary Louise Parker for her own protection (thankfully he also duct-tapes her mouth shut, presumably for the viewers’ protection), Bruce goes on the run. On the way, he attempts to figure out who’s trying to retire him permanently, the answer to which involves many interested parties including big business, politicians, and the good old CIA; and so complex as to make virtually no sense whatsoever.

Bruce also finds some spare time to get his old team together, all of whom are also classified RED – ‘Retired, Extremely Dangerous’. If the baddies had only done a little due diligence and watched Diehard with a Fucking Vengeance, they would have realized how ED Bruce Willis is.

In fact, this constitutes one of my main issues with the film. Bruce and his cohorts – John Malkovitch, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren – are apparently inviolable, which is nice for them, but doesn’t make for much in the way of dramatic tension.

Even when Bruce breaks into the impregnable CIA HQ, how about a bit of decapitation or something to demonstrate how dangerous it is? I don’t want to be TOLD it’s a suicide mission, then watch Bruce strolling around smirking at trained CIA operatives who want to kill him if they only knew it.

The other thing was, the movie should have been MUCH funnier. So much potential, but the jokes all seemed tired – in fact, exhausted would be a better word. For example, Bruce chatting up MLP on the phone, who mentions she’d like to travel, go to Chili; she asks if he’s ever been and what it was like.

Afterwards, he smacks himself around in a horny orgy of self-loathing, for responding, “It was night.” Granted, it’s not the smoothest of responses, but there are worse. “I had Delhi-belly the whole time,” for instance, or, “Sometimes I think of you licking stamps and masturbate.”

In another scene, MLP reads ‘Forbes’ upside down in the CIA staff canteen. Now, if actors are paid seven-figure salaries, shouldn’t they be required to PROJECT distraction instead of resorting to reading a magazine upside-down? At this point, I’m convinced Forbes actually prints some editions with the cover on upside down so that actors don’t have to strain themselves.

Then we had Helen Mirren settling in for some girl-chat over an automatic weapon. “If you break (Frank’s) heart,” she threatens MLP, “I’ll kill you then bury your body in the woods.”

I suppose, coming from a career assassin, it was supposed to leap off the screen with a new twist, but it just . . . didn’t.

So, as to how many stars to award Red, I’m conflicted. No doubt, the film was above-average entertainment. But with that cast – which was so awesome I forgot to even mention Karl Urban – and the concept – it should have been SO MUCH BETTER.

The execution should have been a clean kill, but was sloppy and indecisive.

The action was over-crisp, yet under-cooked.

It hurts me to do this, but I wouldn’t be doing justice to either you or me if I didn’t deduct a star for the wasted potential. Trust me. The alternative would hurt A LOT more.

2/5

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