More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.41%
Worth A Look: 25.93%
Pretty Bad: 7.41%
Total Crap: 25.93%

2 reviews, 15 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Toy Story 4 by Peter Sobczynski

Canary (2018) by Jay Seaver

Assassinaut by Jay Seaver

Dead Don't Die, The by alejandroariera

Dead Don't Die, The by Peter Sobczynski

Shaft (2019) by Peter Sobczynski

Men in Black: International by Peter Sobczynski

Chasing the Dragon 2: Wild Wild Bunch by Jay Seaver

Hole in the Ground, The by Jay Seaver

Knife+Heart by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Red (2010)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"In This Case, Dead Is Better"
1 stars

Profiling is a politically incorrect method of narrowing down a suspect field that, racially-or-sexually-biased, can at least help cut down on the waste of following or searching people who pose no discernable threat. Just because its in our face at airports where the PC-police's random searches often lead to my grandmother in a wheelchair, we know that the CIA and NSA do it all the time. And it is also a valuable asset when it comes to the movies as well. Biases notwithstanding, even less-than-satisfying directors can pull out the occasional entertainment. But if you look at the screenwriters involved, you can usually see a red flag upfront that may give you enough pause to look the other way. Robert Schwentke, last seen introducing cinema audiences to one of the all-time dumbing experiences in The Time Traveler's Wife, now takes on another adaptation - this time from the comic world - and it should have been a slam dunk. Instead, thanks to him and the adapters of last year's how-good-could-it-have-been-to-give-us-this graphic novella mystery, Whiteout, Warren Ellis' three-part series becomes an excruciating bore on screen without a sense of wit, fun or action worth your attention.

Bruce Willis stars as the comic's hero, Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent who has nestled into a boring suburban existence not unlike Willis' Jimmy the Tulip from The Whole Nine Yards. The best part of his day is talking to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), his handler in the payroll department, whom he keeps making excuses to phone up. After this breach of etiquette is broached, the agency sends a hit squad to his place to retire him for good. Bad idea. Frank escapes and seeks out Sarah as he believes she is now in danger too. Showing up in her home unannounced, Sarah is more freaked than delighted despite her obviously flirty tone in their phone conversations and Frank is forced to kidnapping to keep her safe.

To discover why the agency would want him dead after all these years, Frank along with Sarah hit the road to meet up with other colleagues he worked with in the past. They include Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), living his cancer-stricken days in a retirement home; Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), a paranoid bloke who has seen up close the secret experiments performed on soldiers of this country; Russian rival Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox, this time not avenging the death of his dog); and the elegant Victoria (Helen Mirren) who still takes the occasional assassin job on the side. Assigned to hunt down Frank is the no-questions-asked agent William Cooper (a really bad Karl Urban, looking like Adam Scott on steroids) who will soon be wondering what Frank and his team have to do with rich industrialist, Alexander Dunning (Richard Dreyfuss), the Vice President (Julian McMahon) and a top secret extraction mission from their past. Could there be something that Rebecca Pidgeon is holding back other than an ability to look threatening in the slightest?

Despite an impending assassination attempt and an anti-hero who may not be all they seem, Red is a far cry from Salt which, as dumb a script as that was by one of the members of the Most Wanted list for hack screenwriters (Kurt Wimmer), was made with a certain skill of expediency by Philip Noyce. Almost from the second that Willis hits the road, Red flat-lines in telling its story starting with the grating turn from Parker as the sometimes-scatty, sometimes-quietly-enthusiastic thrill seeker. Her relationship with Willis simply never works and if the film had any sense of the subversive, Frank would have discovered what a pill she was and shot her on sight. Who cares if that makes him less sympathetic? With Willis delivering another drier-than-sand performance that is never cool, menacing or humorous, at least that would have been a defining characteristic.

Red wants to fit into the same mold that cast Space Cowboys as kind of a geezer adventure where those past their prime are suddenly thrust back into action in a world that has left them for dead. The comic series (which I have not read, nor even heard of before seeing the first trailer) reportedly was more keen on the action and by Ellis' own admition, more grim than the script he read. Red, the film, is only grim in the manner it has been written by Erich & John Hoeber, with a structure that defies the very core of basic screenwriting and asks us to buy into a plot of the absurd that reveals itself way too late into the game for an audience to process. The Vice President, for example, isn't even introduced until maybe the last 20 minutes of the film and without having a grasp on how corrupt he may have been in the past (or currently), it's a little jolting to have our hero announce he's going to assassinate him. Helen Mirren doesn't show up until the last 40. Also, what purpose does it serve to make us believe that one character is dead when anyone who has seen the trailer (or has a functioning brain) knows they are not only to make them reappear just so they can sacrifice their self in one of the most poorly staged and uninspired standoffs in film history?

Schwentke is working with nothing almost from the start, but he is far from blame. The combination of the Hoebers' idea of action set-ups and Schwentke's staging of them is like watching the Jackal bring a bazooka to a squirrel hunt only to see the little creatures scurry away between his legs. Call it a pet peeve or someone who has a little more faith in the stealthiness of our intelligence agencies, but hunting down and liquidating ex-agents is not exactly something you want to have public. We can buy three masked SWAT team assassins tiptoeing around Frank's place with a deference to creating noise of any kind. When their backup decides to make a full-fledged, walk-slowly-across-the-street assault with giant guns a-blazing in the wee hours of a suburban street full of Christmas decorations turning his house into swiss cheese, isn't somebody going to notice? Same goes for Frank able to sneak into the secret file room at CIA headquarters and then on the way out starts an extemporized office brawl with Cooper. Mission: Impossible this certainly is not.

Nor is it Space Cowboys, The Sea Wolves, or even The Crew. A mental recap of what passes for its big action scenes consist of Schwentke usually setting someone up with a big gun and firing it from one position; the action movie equivalent of the carnival game with the red star and BBs. This lack of ingenuity goes right down to its big climax which includes the crafty plan of yelling about a gas leak to clear a room (complete with what all we know might just be fart spray), the reminder that Richard Dreyfuss is the go-to guy to play guys who either look, act like or actually are Dick Cheney and that ruthless CIA killers really aren't all that bad because they have sleeping children. The Hoebers provide so little interest in our central team that the actors can't even force chemistry between them. Malkovich may as well be playing an extension of his disgraced agent from the Coens' Burn After Reading and Mirren exudes instant class and sexiness with every motion, but just because she can do it so effortlessly doesn't mean that the rest of the film had to follow suit. With Red, Schwentke earns his spot on the not-to-watch list and the Hoebers must be taken into custody and thrown into cinema jail. Unless, of course, you care to give them three strikes and wait to see how they adapt the board game, Battleship, to the big screen.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/15/10 15:00:00
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2010 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2010 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/02/16 Charles Tatum Likable cast saves this 4 stars
1/18/12 Marc DC Not even Freeman, Mirren, and Willis can save this garbage 2 stars
9/23/11 Annie G Baby boomer wet dream (and, yeah, y’all aren’t old), but still not a bad movie. 3 stars
6/05/11 Piz Entertaining but towards the end its like "C'mon, end already!" 3 stars
3/21/11 R.W. Welch Over-the-top Spook/conspiracy flick. Mostly pretty droll stuff. 4 stars
3/02/11 millersxing postcards from the edge of who cares? 1 stars
2/28/11 Sabaka Formula, but entertaining. 4 stars
1/30/11 Amy An awesome action/comedy with an excellent cast! 5 stars
1/27/11 Monday Morning Cute but too much shooting and too many explosions. 2 stars
1/24/11 bill norris i dug it! the exit from the cop car 1 of my favs. 4 stars
11/10/10 Steve Benkin I absolutely adored this film. Can't remember the last time I enjoyed myself at the movies! 5 stars
11/06/10 dean shuck violent but with funny parts,,good for a look 4 stars
10/26/10 Luisa Despite some slow parts, funny and entertaining. John Malkovich is hilarious! 4 stars
10/20/10 KingNeutron M-LP is absolutely adorable - and this film was way better than The Expendables 4 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  15-Oct-2010 (PG-13)
  DVD: 25-Jan-2011


  DVD: 25-Jan-2011

[trailer] Trailer

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast