Sunday, October 17, 2010

Red (2010)

During the opening credits we see former black ops specialist Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) adjusting to a rather lonely existence in a sparsely-furnished suburban home, tearing up his pension cheques, just so he can extend his low-key phone flirtation with the equally unfulfilled Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) at the bureau.

Then a freelance team of South African assassins turns up and attempts to take the ED out of RED: "retired and extremely dangerous." Moses's response is lethal, which turns out to be a bit of a decoy from the director, because most of the people chasing him (and Sarah, who comes along for the ride almost reluctantly) thereafter, are assumed to be 'innocent' government employees, and so no matter how much shooting he does, none of them falls over dead.

Adapted from a graphic novel, the movie is yet another example of Hollywood's adjustment to a post-Bourne world. There are echoes of both Salt and even The Expendables from earlier in the year, but Robert Schwentke finds an alternative and mostly successful balance between real thriller and comedy spoof. (And certainly more successful than The A-Team, Killers and Knight and Day.)

The plot revolves around belated fallout from a 1981 massacre in Guatemala. Everyone involved in the clean-up (and a New York Times journalist who'd been about to scoop the story) has been taken out in a series of CIA hits...all except Richard Dreyfuss's Cheyne-esque Alexander Dunning.

Moses decides to take the fight back to source, and has soon teamed up with two members of his old squad, Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman) and Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), plus Ivan from the Russian Embassy (Brian Cox) and MI6 assassin Victoria (Dame Helen Mirren).

With a cast like that you don't really need the Tom Cruise/Angelina Jolie stunts. Willis is interestingly understated, but the real revelation is John Malkovich, who for once couldn't really be accused of being John Malkovich. His portrayal of the paranoid, gone to ground operative was spot on and seemed oddly familiar — and then I remembered that I live next door to someone just like that!


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