Monday, November 15, 2010
RED (dir. Robert Schwentke)
Where does this go wrong, exactly? You have Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich all shooting guns. You have Richard Dreyfus, Brian Cox, and Ernest Borgnine showing up quite often. AND Mary-Louise Parker?
I mean, once you land those people, you think you'd want to punch up the script just out of one's civic duty.
But RED is a drag, through and through. Light on action, light on character, light on dialogue, there's really nothing happening here. I don't mean there's nothing happening like how there's nothing happening in Gerry, Gus Van Sant's movie about two guys walking around in the desert, I mean that in spite of all the plot and characters ostensibly doing things, there's no life in this film at all.
Bruce Willis stars as Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent living for little more than his regular talks with a woman (Mary-Louise Parker) who answers the help line for his pension checks, which he habitually rips up. One day, some black ops fellas come crashing into his house and, in a rather non-stealthy manner, completely destroy his house via thousands of rounds of ammunition. This convinces Frank to seek help from his old CIA buddies, who just happen to be the exact people who were there, "on that fateful day" that will become the center of much of the conflict. Oh, and he'd better grab that lady at the pension office, because she's in danger, too. Because he talked to her.
If leaps in logic were RED's only fault, I'd forgive it without a second thought. But nobody in the cast here is really "on" (although Helen Mirren and Brian Cox are kind of delightful together), least of all Willis, who's tuned out even by Willis standards. Louise-Parker is trying her darnedest, even if most of her role revolves around having boobs. But there's just so little to this film. There's no punch, no drive, no zing. When action-comedy is done right (and I will point out once again that Knight and Day did this SO well earlier this year), there's a feeling of walking on air, a delightful sort of hum and a near-constant feeling of ecstasy. Because even when the cars aren't racing and the bullets have stopped firing, the characters will keep you entertained.
I looked at my watch with a half-hour left in the picture and wanted to die. Slogging through those last thirty minutes was agony, and I haven't so completely wanted to remove myself from a film since Alice in Wonderland. There is nothing entertaining about RED. That shot of Bruce Willis exiting the cop car is pretty cool, but that's like...two seconds? And that's the only good action beat. All of the other action scenes are completely lifeless. There is neither the dance of combat nor the visceral thrill. Just a lot of people shooting at each other from across the room.
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