2010 seems to be the year of the spy thriller and action comedy. Aside from genre blenders like The A-Team, Knight and Day, The Other Guys and The Losers, we've also had straight action spy thrillers like Salt in the mix. The latest installment into this series of releases is more akin to the former rather than the latter, an action spy comedy called RED. Based on a DC Comics graphic novel, RED is about retired CIA agents who get back in the game when their lives are suddenly threatened. "RED" stands for "Retired: Extremely Dangerous" and the film does a great job playing with that idea.
If you had told me before seeing RED that it was directed by the guy who brought you last year's romantic drama The Time Traveler's Wife and 2005's disappointing thriller Flightplan, I probably wouldn't have expected too much. But after good buzz and an ensemble cast sparked my interest, I found RED to possibly be this year's biggest surprise -- and it wouldn't be Bruce Willis' first sleeper hit either (anyone remember 1999's Sixth Sense?). Robert Schwentke tries out some new techniques in this stylized action comedy about aging CIA agents getting returning to the field, resulting in a film that has a smart comedic tone that works from start to finish. Jon and Erich Heber have crafted a unique and genuinely funny screenplay that uses infrequent profanity (unlike a lot of the other similar releases this year) and a lighthearted approach to make the action scenes a lot of fun too. Granted, some of the action gets a bit over-the-top when it comes to violence, but when Willis and Karl Urban get into an all-out brawl in an office room, it's no surprise that Schwentke uses Aerosmith's "Back In The Saddle" to set the tone for the fight. RED is very funny without being campy or cartoony. It's more or less the movie that both A-Team and Losers were trying, but more effective in the process.
While the trailer kind of made the movie look like a potential bloodbath, Schwentke doesn't take every opportunity to embellish the graphic violence, but does use the PG-13 rating to his advantage in other instances. For example, when a main character is shot in the arm, the camera never shows a close-up of the wound, while films like The Dark Knight and Willis' own 16 Blocks (which are also rated PG-13) both focused on a wound being stitched up or cleaned. Yet, at the same time, Schwentke focuses on two separate instances where a rocket or grenade obliterate a bad guy. While there are no blood and guts, we do see these explosions directly with debris flying (the first one is a bit jarring). Another scene briefly shows a folder loaded with half-a-dozen severed fingers (as kind of a gross-out joke). Still, in other sequences, people are shot up or killed in some fashion that isn't shown graphically. In the end, however, RED still makes no apologies for being an action film, so the viewer can expect gratuitous violence (and the opening scene where a house is riddled with unceasing gunfire and reduced to swiss cheese is proof of such). The sexual content is very mild with just some cleavage from Mary-Louise Parker and a gag about Joe (Morgan Freeman's character) getting an orderly in a nursing home to bend over and fix his TV just so he can stare at her clothed butt. Language consists of 1 "F" word (Karl Urban's character uses it), about 2 "s" words, 2 uses of "g*dd*mn" (in the same scene) and a few uses of "h*ll" and "d*mn" (among a couple other words) during the film.
Because the language is rather light for a movie like this (To contrast, both A-Team and Losers had around 24 "s" words while The Other Guys had around 45 uses of the word and each movie had at least 1 "F" word usage), RED has a pretty strong script that allows for a team of quirky characters to have a lot of fun -- and it's infectious as the viewer. In addition to Willis and Freeman, John Malkovich is a scene-stealer as a burned-out, paranoid ex-agent and Brian Cox puts on a believable Russian accent to play an unlikely ally for the team. Mary-Louise Parker is delightfull as Willis' love interest and appears to be just as quirky as the rest of them, while Karl Urban (who played Dr. McCoy in last year's Star Trek and was one of the villains in The Bourne Supremacy) is excellent as competition for the RED gang. Lastly, Ernest Borgnine is a treat to see on screen again, especially since he's 93 years old (!!) and Helen Mirren and Richard Dreyfuss are also great additions to the cast.
For fans of action films, RED is a gem. A smart script, strong cast, and good direction make this a movie that is likely to be a cult favorite for a long, long time. Some over-the-top action and brief strong language do make this a movie to stop and consider before checking out (it's definitely not a kids movie), however. So if this sounds like your kind of movie, check out the content summaries below before enlisting the entertainment of RED.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 10/16/10)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
One of the late 2009 gems in the action/comedy genre is delivered from Summit Entertainment, titled RED. It's one of those wonderfully written, funny, and clever films that you seldom find in this genre and the Blu-Ray release gives moviegoers a chance to take home a copy of the movie in high definition. Interestingly enough, for BD options, Summit gives buyers the choice of grabbing the film as a one-disc Blu-Ray/DVD combo (which is a double-sided disc, AKA a "flipper" disc), or a one-disc Blu-Ray "Special Edition" of the movie. This is a review of the latter.
The special features are surprisingly thin for this release. Considering how most companies are releasing Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Download combos in addition to a decent amount of extras accompanying the movie, the "Special Edition" BD of RED is really limited. The first of three bonus features is a feature-length audio commentary track from a real life ex-CIA operative who was used as a consultant on the film. Some of his insights are pretty interesting, but the lack of commentary from the film's director as well as any of the main cast seems rather odd.
Access:RED - This is a the biggest and most significant special feature, but it's surprisingly limited on the goodies as well. The feature-length interactive experience for the film RED offers pop-up fun facts (which are mostly kind of pointless, but occasionally intriguing), real stories told by the ex-CIA agent from the commentary track, and some brief behind-the-scenes interviews. Unfortunately, you cannot view any of this stuff outside of the movie, however, the chapter and fast-forward buttons on your remote are disabled and only a "Next" button on a new control panel on the lower left of the screen lets you skip to the next "Access:RED" pop-up option. The best parts are "Damage Control" which are actual behind-the-scenes pieces about the film. The first, for example, features the cast talking about Bruce Willis and working with him on the film while the next one features the cast talking about the director Robert Schwentke and others cover other aspects of the film. Considering the movie has such great action moments and stunts, it's a shame that (and curious as to why) there are no separate featurettes devoted to this stuff. I could see RED developing a sort of cult following of fans so it just seems odd that there isn't even a featurette about the DC Comics graphic novel that the film is based on.
Deleted/Extended Scenes - The are a total of ten Deleted or Extended Scenes, with eight out of ten of them merely being one or two lines of added dialog to an existing sequence in the film. Most of the "extended scenes" are comprised primarily of the scenes that surround the additional material, sadly enough. Nonetheless, here's a breakdown of what you'll find... "Gone In A Flash" - This is from the opening sequence when Frank's house is invaded. We merely see him standing in the shadow of a blinking Christmas decoration and when it fades on his figure and reilluminates where he's standing, we find that he's gone already. "You Have A Gun, Awesome" - This is another super short extended moment which just shows Sarah reacting to meeting Frank for the first time... and when he draws a gun. "Help Me" - This shows Cooper getting cornered by the cops as it appears in the film and then the camera pans back after he's tackled to reveal a man tied up in a store right in front of the horde of cops (apparently being a completely random joke that a victim of a store robbery is tied up nearby this unrelated incident but isn't actually going to get the aid of the police? It was a wise cut from the finished film). "I Wasn't Ready" - This shows Marvin trying to convince his friends that he isn't an "old man." "You Need To Be More Careful" - This is the first worthwhile and actual deleted "scene." It brief but shows Cooper at home after Frank had beaten him up and his wife sits downnext to him and expresses her concern for the "accident" he had at work that caused his injury. It's a cute exchange. "We've Both Been Played" - This takes place when Frank makes a phone call to Cooper and adds two lines of dialog from Frank to Cooper about how they've both been played. "Swimming With The Sharks" - Here, Cooper and his boss chat after interrogating Sarah. It just adds his boss telling him that she'll look into who is behind everything. "Glass Of Champagne" - This is another split-second addition that just shows Ivan drinking champagne on the way to blow up the limo. "Spectacular Lack Of Vision" - Some brief added dialog from the film's confrontation finale has been added back in. "I Want A Margarita" - This is a deleted scene from the joke additional scene that appears just before the credits role. It's a pretty funny exchange between Frank and Marvin. Sadly, all but two of these pieces are just "Extended" scenes that literally include a mere line or two of additional dialog... or a man throwing a glass to the ground. It's not worth shelling out the extra bucks for the "Special Edition."
Actually, there really isn't anything on this "Special Edition" that's worth shelling out the extra cash for. The film looks gorgeous in high definition, so fans of the film wouldn't miss much if they just go for the movie-only release. Although it may require anyone who picks it up now to double-dip should it happen, here's hoping the movie will get a worthy special-feature-loaded release in the future.
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 1/25/11)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Sarah comments to Frank on the phone that some of her coworkers think she might be gay. She then insists she's not; We see Sarah get dropped off at home after a date and he asks her if she's going to let him come upstairs. She says no and he complains that he bought her dinner; When she gets home, she complains to herself aloud about the date and we see her remove her shirt, down to a camisole and she comments to herself that he can't have "any of this;" After Marvin lunges at Frank with a crossbow and Frank calms him down, he asks him to remove the knife from his "balls" and we see Marvin holding a huge knife at Frank's crotch; Sarah shows some cleavage in her tank top; We see Joe in a nursing home and he has a nurse adjust the TV to fix the reception, but we soon see that he just wanted to see her bend over, to which he remarks that it's real nice. She then realizes what he's doing and smiles, then leaves.
1 "f" word" (and another possible one muffled when a person's mouth is duct-taped); 2 "s" words, 2 "g-dd-mn," 3 "a" words, 9 "h*ll," 5 "d*mn," 1 "S.O.B," 2 "suck," 2 "Chr-st," 3 derivatives of "G*d" (like "Oh my G-d" and "Oh, G-d"); Also, Marvin gives a bad guy "the finger"
We see Sarah get a beer from her fridge and start to drink it; We hear that Marvin was given LSD everyday for eleven years; Sarah is given a needle of some kind of drug to make her pass out and we then see her feeling the affects of the drug as she's sitting in a car and remarks, "I'm high!"; There may be some drinking at a dinner and again at a reception banquet
Joe asks Frank if he identified some hitmen who attacked him and Frank hands him an envelope, saying "Sort of." Joe opens the envelope to find about half-a-dozen severed fingers inside (for the fingerprints); We see blood on a man's clothed chest after he's been shot dead; We see two different direct explosions when two people are blown up (with fragments of clothes and debris flying); After a fight, Cooper and Frank are very bloody. Frank has a bloody bullet wound on his arm and blood on his face and shirt while Cooper's face has streaks of blood on it; We see the close-up of a bloody bullet that Victoria has pulled out of Frank's arm (but we don't see the wound); A person has some blood on the front of their clothing around the hip and on their back - where a bullet exited - and blood on their hands from the wound.
Heavy violence. A lot is stylized or played up for laughs, but there's a great deal of action violence. An ops team breaks into a house to kill a man, but he gets the jump on them and shoots them, and injects a liquid into another's neck by using the syringe the attacker was going to use on him. He then puts bullets in a frying pan on the stove to simulate active gunfire which draws more gunmen who then riddle the house with continuous gunfire, cutting up the front of the house. The man who's being attacked then shoots his attackers; A man holds a knife and crossbow on another man thinking he wants to hurt him; A woman is tied up after trying to attack an intruder in her house (but it's played for laughs); A bad officer (or a bad guy posing as one) tries to kidnap her but Frank knocks him out; A man pulls a knife on another man but Marvin draws a gun first causing the man to stand down; A helicopter attacks an airport tower, killing a man; Marvin lunges at a woman he claims was following her and holds a gun on her. Frank makes him withdraw; A car crashes into another car, and Frank opens fire on the attacking vehicle; Cooper kicks a chair out from under a man who has a noose around his neck. We then see him struggling (also from a distance) before dying; A woman opens fire on Frank, Sarah and Marvin, and Marvin whips out a rocket launcher, which Frank takes to blow up a man. Then another man throws a grenade at them, which Marvin swings a gun at like a bat and hits back at the attacker, blowing him up. Then Marvin shoots a rocket coming at him, killing the person who shot it (which we don't see); We see an old man shoot a thug who had come to kill him; Cooper and Frank get into a brutal hand-to-hand fight, where Frank dislocates Cooper's arm and Cooper shoots Frank in the arm; Frank, Joe and Marvin tie up Dunning and threaten him with a blowtorch. One of them slaps him in the face and then later punches him out; Victoria covers their escape with gunfire; A man is shot and killed; A man causes pandemonium at a banquet and people rush for the exits, stumbling over each other; Victoria uses a huge machine gun to shoot up some vehicles. A man blows up a vehicle with a trigger; Frank tranquilizes a couple guards with a tazer; A man is shot and wounded; A woman is shot and wounded in the hip; Several people are shot and killed during the finale; A man is smacked in the throat and presumably killed (and other action violence)
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content
really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.