May 22, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 28 October 2010 10:04
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help parents choose what to watch with their children. This week’s pick is a new film, RED.
Any movie that gives the great Ernest Borgnine — now age 93 — a few days’ work can’t be all bad. And RED is not, by any means, all bad. It’s just not very good, certainly not as clever as the advertisements promise, and clearly not a film that everyone in the family will enjoy. What it offers, at best, is a mindless movie diversion for parents who enjoy seeing old stars shoot ‘em up for a couple of hours. RED feels as if it has been written and directed by committee, with each member trying to make a different film, and featuring a parade of actors who don’t have to break a sweat to entertain. Other than an employment opportunity for this collection of favorite performers, RED doesn’t offer much. But Oscar-winner Borgnine does have a good time.Bruce Willis, who continues to give the same performance no matter what role he plays, is once again cast as a man of mystery with a violent streak. This time, as a lonely retiree, he seeks revenge when a CIA assassination operation (yes, that plot device, again) puts him in harm’s way. It turns out he was once in the CIA and, many years before, was a man who knew too much. Today, he tears up his pension checks so he has a reason to call the benefits office because he’s secretly in love with one of the workers (in, perhaps, the least conceivable plot point in the film). And, yes, he still remembers how to kill people.
He has friends in low places, too, beginning with John Malkovich who looks older here than in Secretariat; Helen Mirren, who looks younger here than in The Queen; and Morgan Freeman, who looks just about the same he always does and doesn’t have much to do except stand around and act sincere (which he does very well). We also get Brian Cox, in an odd imitation of a Russian named Ivan, and Richard Dreyfuss in an even more confusing portrayal of a conservative conspirator sending mixed signals. Ultimately, Willis uncovers a plot that reaches directly to the Vice President of the US which, as typical in spy films, sets up a lot of conspiracy and a whole bunch of shooting. The film is, actually, unnecessarily loud for most of its running time.
Very little is surprising or logical. Mirren does her usual charming shtick and looks more than a bit at home holding a large gun. Mary-Louise Parker, as the benefits worker, stays within her acting comfort zone that makes her predictably loopy as the sidekick on the run. Freeman and Malkovich do their usual bits and Willis is, as always, charming, distant and rarely speaks above a monotone.
The problem with RED is everything feels like something we have seen before, from the plot to the performers, the settings to the sappy finale. From Space Cowboys to Sneakers every possible cliché about conspiracy and age is assembled by recipe as if the movie committee was checking off the boxes as they put the film together. The result is a film without pace, originality or the good sense of fun that such an escape demands. But it does have Ernest Borgnine. And every 93-year-old Oscar winner should get the chance to work as often as he wants.
* Content: Low. Once again, the good buys are in peril, the bad guys are on the hunt, and the innocent bystanders wonder what all the fuss is about.
* Entertainment: Medium. While the whole thing doesn’t add up to much, some sequences and performances are fun, especially the hammy moments from Helen Mirren. She does seem to be enjoying her post-Oscar ride.
* Message: Low. Perhaps it’s telling us that older people have as much fun playing with weapons as younger people but that’s hardly a reason to go to the movies.
* Relevance: Low. Years from how it will only be remembered for the chance to again spot Ernest Borgnine in front of a camera.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: Low. There’s little that children will enjoy in the film and they will be able to predict the plot without a miss.
(RED is rated PG-13 for language and violence and runs 111 minutes.)
2 Popcorn Buckets
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