06 October 2010

RED: Retired, Extremly Drab

*** (3 stars)

Monday I went to a screening of "RED" at the Movie Studio Grill. A highlight may have been the delicious garlic fries I ate while we waited for the movie to begin (10 minutes late).

"RED" is based on the comics by Warren Ellis ("Transmetropolitan" one of my favorite comics of all time) and Cully Hamner. Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), retiree, spends the day tearing up benefit checks just so he can talk to Sarah (Mary Louise Parker); until one night when three men break into his house and try to kill him. Now, he's on the run with Sarah as his hostage. You see, Frank isn't who he seems: He's ex-C.I.A. and one of the best "wet" men (i.e., hit man) the agency has ever seen. Calling his old team together (Dame Helen Mirren with an uzi!!, John Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman) to figure out who is trying to kill them and why.

I still can't decide how I feel about this movie, so I've decided to do something a bit different and just give you my pros and cons.

* Anything from the twisted mind of Warren Ellis is a-okay with me. He is beyond skilled at creating worlds and characters that appear on the page full formed and relatable. He has a wicked sense of humor too!

* Script- Jon and Erich Hoeber ("Whiteout", "Battleship"-based on the game) wrote a funny script with a lot of great one liners. I'd love to see the final script to know if I should also include them in the Cons.

* I heart Bruce Willis. Since the "Moonlighting" days, he has been one of my top actors. Able to perform comedy as well as action, he only gets better with age. In "RED", his casually cool demeanour is the perfect antithesis of Parker's neurosis and Malkovich's paranoia. A preposterous scene (alluded to in the trailer) where he steps out of a moving vehicle and empties two clips into another car is great. Too bad the director and editor couldn't showcase the scenes natural momentum.

* Bad direction- Robert Schwentke (the German born director of "Flightplan" and "The Time Traveler's Wife") seems completely out of his element. The film clips along from poorly edited vignette to vignette. The majority of the film is shot in wide and mid shot which is great for action but increasingly boring for human interaction. Dialog seems to drift off into the ether. It's apparent some of the actor's were having a good time, but it didn't translate to the final picture. Instead, we're left with a feeling of "huh" when the final credits roll. A more experienced action or comic director would have done a better job. I'm not saying everything needs to be the frame-for-frame translation of "Sin City" or shot on blue screen, that certainly didn't work for "The Spirit" and I'm holding out hope for future Zac Snyder films; but it would have been a lot more interesting. Here is an amazing story, the "Bourne Identity" for the early bird supper crowd, and it's boring.

* Editing- See above. Thom Noble is an Academy Award winning editor ("Witness", nominated for "Thelma & Louise"), but he hasn't really done a lot in the last 10 years. Clearly Schwentke has a hard on for him (he edited both his previous films), but was he the best person for this job? I think not. His approach to action is more controlled and still (e.g., "Reign of Fire", "Mask of Zorror", "Red Dawn"), which does not lend itself well to full impact shoot 'em ups. Suggestions: Saar Klein ("The Bourne Identity"), Dan Lebental ("Iron Man"), Michael Kahn (see: Steven Spielburg), or Stuart Baird ("Casino Royale").

* Karl Urban. I'm so sorry dude, I love you but you were killing me in this movie. Was it the accent? You've done American before with no problems. What gives? Were they giving you hell for your "Xena" days? Come on! You've done some good work: "Lord of the Rings", "The Bourne Supremacy", "Doom" (who expected that to be good?!), and "Star Trek". Please don't get nervous, I still love you. Consider this your yellow card.

* Music. I don't even know what was going on with the score, but it was making me crazy.

*Script- Okay, I decided to include this here as well. What can be easily white washed in a comic is glaringly apparent in a movie. We are smart consumers. We devour crime and espionage shows like "Alias", the Bourne and Oceans trilogies, and "Mission:Impossible". Therefore, we want to see the planning not just the execution. If you are going to cheat us, the execution should be amazing.

All in all this movie wasn't bad, it just wasn't as great as I expected it to be. I suggest adding it to your Netflix queue right now and spending $10 on something else.

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