Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Red (2010)


Retired CIA agent Frank Moses is having a hard time adjusting to his humdrum, post-black-ops life. The only bright spot in his life is Sarah, the customer service rep who handles his pension, and with whom he has frequent phone conversations. When a hit squad attacks his house in the middle of the night, Frank is determined to find out who sent them, and why. The task is a bit too big for him, but fortunately he has an assortment of old associates who are only too happy to be recruited to assist him in his mission--as well as Sarah herself, who is unexpectedly swept up in the drama on account of Frank's known attachment to her. Meanwhile, CIA Agent William Cooper is tasked with finding and eliminating Frank, who has been tagged as 'Retired Extremely Dangerous.' As Frank and company inch ever closer to the source of their trouble, Cooper begins to question his mission ...

This movie had no business being anything less than awesome--with Bruce back in action  in the kind of role he does best, supported by John Malkovich as paranoid conspiracy theorist Martin Boggs, Martin Freeman as ailing ex-agent Joe, and the inimitable Helen Mirren as expert assassin Victoria ... to say nothing of Brian Cox as Ivan, the Russian ex-agent who pines nostalgically for the Cold War days. With a cast like that, the movie ought to have been a lock.

Fortunately, this is one of the few movies that actually lived up to its potential. It is as if the filmmakers predicted what an audience watching the trailer would hope for, and then made that exact movie--which is a harder thing to do than you'd think. It is, in fact, everything the trailer--and the overall premise--promises.

The story is fun and the stunts are creative and surprisingly plausible, given the age of the individuals involved. And the main cast is a delight to watch (Mirren is particularly effective and an unexpectedly efficient killer). Mary Louise Parker (Weeds), with whom I am not terribly familiar, was a pleasant surprise--with all the charisma and screen presence exuded by Willis, Freeman, Malkovich, and Mirren (and that is a lot of charisma and screen presence), she more than holds her own. She has great chemistry with Willis, and her  reactions to the events around her are absolutely priceless.

As for the rest of the cast, Karl Urban (best known by Americans for his portrayal of Eomer) is capable enough as the cocky and ambitious young agent Cooper. And Richard Dreyfuss ... well, does it even count as a spoiler if I tell you that his character--a defense contractor--is perhaps not the most trustworthy of characters? I suspect not.

This was, by far, one of the most satisfying moviegoing experiences I've had to date, and honestly, it's only improved with subsequent viewings. Granted, it may not be for everyone, but if the trailer makes you think you want to see this movie, then believe me, you want to see this movie.

[ADDENDUM: I'm totally looking forward to the planned sequel, Red 2, due out next year, though part of me is a little worried it can't possibly be as good as the original...]

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