I loves me some badass, bald Bruce. He’s my hero and Red had all the makings of the kind of crazy action movie I like. In some ways it kind of delivered but I’m still disappointed by it. The comedy works and making that the context for the action totally works, but it’s more "Moonlighting" than Die Hard.
Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) goes about his daily routines, flirting with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) by phone as she handles his pension check. When ski masked guys come to his house, he takes them all out, goes after Sarah and gets the old gang back together. He was a CIA operative with Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren). Now agent Cooper (Karl Urban) is on their tail.
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All the shenanigans are played as comedy, in fact as romantic comedy between Frank and Sarah. That’s fine. I always say action is an inherently comedic genre anyway. The stunts and payoffs are punch lines. It still has to cohere like an action movie though. Red feels like just a collection of stunts with no flow.
Action sequences are just poorly shot. It feels like they took a few comic panels from the book, but you don’t see the effects of a given action. It’s hard to see how Frank takes out the intruders, but he looks cool doing it. Those trailer moments like getting out of the spinning car or shooting rockets at bad guys are cool, but they only play as stunts that somebody filmed, not actions the characters performed in the scene. You barely see Mirren with the machinegun at all.
Romantic comedies could take a cue from Red though. How many stupid movies have we seen where a woman hates the difficult guy until she learns he’s really not all bad? Well, Sarah has every right to feel that way, dragged on the run by a sketchy guy she’s only spoken to by phone, so she doesn’t even know that he’s the good guy. It works largely because Parker is so adorable.
The team is great together and they’ve got an all star cast of supporting actors to play opposite too. Every scene feels like a bunch of old pros reminiscing, whether they’re colleagues or villains. There’s some nifty caper as they orchestrate their mission, everyone gets some badass moments and they have outrageous sets for the characters to play in.
That’s a lot to be happy about in Red but it failed me on the most important aspect. I could just accept that it’s an all star comedy with great characters, but that would be wrong. The action scenes left me cold and that’s no good in an action movie.