Starring: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Mary Louise Parker

Director: Robert Schwentke

Writer(s): Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis & Cully Hamner (Graphic Novel)

Original Score: Christophe Beck, David Holmes

Cinemtography: Florian Ballhaus

Running Time: 111 mins.

As graphic novel adaptations continue apace it naturally falls upon those that are lesser known to plug the gaps between the Spider, Super, Bat and X-Men, this year has already seen the arrival of Jonah Hex (a mess), The Losers (entertaining but hardly boundary-pushing) and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (a unique oddity). On top of this the summer has seen all manner of burgeoning action hero troupes filled (largely) of the slightly older man, The Expendables, The A-Team, and the aforementioned Losers which is appropriately a DC adaptation, much like RED which ticks both “graphic novel oddity” and “aging action hero troupe” boxes.

There is little, bar one of two visual flourishes, in the film to suggest its roots as a graphic novel, even the characters are written (on the whole) as slightly more believable as your average comic book hero, and they have glaring weaknesses to boot, Bruce Willis is a retired CIA agent reduced to pining for a call centre operative in Dallas, Morgan Freeman resides in a retirement home and has terminal cancer, while John Malkovich is a paranoid loner living “off the grid” in order to avoid all the satellites he thinks are following his every move, and then there’s top assassin Helen Mirren, bored with her life running a hotel and taking “jobs” on the side. Needless to say this being a film involving the FBI each of these ex-operatives are classified as RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous) and hunted down by Karl Urban’s ruthless rookie agent.

There is little in the above description to suggest anyone watching RED is in for anything other than an action film starring a novelty cast of older generation actors relishing the chance to have fun and walk the nominally predictable steps that the plot provides, and you would be right. Thankfully, very much in a similar vein to the Oceans films, the cast are clearly having fun and it is on the whole contagious, each line is delivered with a knowing wink and seeing the likes of Freeman and Mirren not thesping it up is a joy, with Malkovich given the chance so lacking in Jonah Hex to go crazy and OTT as only Malkovich can, as for Bruce Willis he’s Bruce Willis, the guy can do lighthearted action romps in his sleep. Add to this a game support cast that includes a fun turn by Brian Cox and there is little not to smirk along with, on occasion though the tone is a little askew and the cracks become slightly harder to paper over.

If RED is a film that usually aims hits Oceans 11 knock-about fun it also has a tendency to slip into Oceans 12 territory and flail around like you’re watching a group of old friends getting drunk together, fun or the friends maybe but not so great for you as the observer, losing focus and therefore any sense of empathy or enjoyment you were having in the characters presence, this is something that becomes hard to claw back after the third time it happens especially as these moments become more frequent in the films final third. Jarring as they do against the brutal nature of some of the violence the tone veers wildly leaving you confused, is this now a thriller? Is that meant to be funny/tragic/sad? Clearly Schwentke (director of The Time Travellers Wife) is not capable enough of controlling such a wide array of personas amidst such a clumsy script and it is on this ground that the bul of the film can be won, or in this case, lost.

VERDICT

Sporadic fun provided larfgely by a game cast, sadly that exact same thing becomes the films downfall as RED loses both the focus, plot and in turn its audience!

 

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