' ' Cinema Romantico: Red

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


The afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday when I sit down to watch a movie prior to the later-in-the-day festivities there is a certain kind of movie for which I yearn. I yearn for the kind of movie where....

-A rocket launcher is concealed within a toy pig.

-Helen Mirren fires a gatling gun.

-John Malkovich plays a guy who was given a daily dose of LSD for 11 years.

-Locales change (by my tally) 11 times.

-A phone trace ACTUALLY works (for a specific reason)!

-Ernest Borgnine turns up as "The Records Keeper."

-Brian Cox has a Russian accent.

-Lines spoken consist of things like: "You can't just go around duct taping everybody" and "He made twenty-two calls to pension services and that didn't stand out to you?" and "The General has dropped his contact lens" and, of course, "I'm going to break into the C.I.A."

Let me be honest, 364 days a year I would not have enjoyed "Red" all that much but on Super Bowl Sunday......well, you know.

"Red", directed by someone who isn't important because of all the stars in the cast, except for Karl Urban as the mostly hapless guy in pursuit of all the stars who really should have been played by Justin Theroux instead, is the darndest movie. A lot of its reviews centered on how boring and slow it was when the topic - retired black ops agents reconvening when they are all targeted to expose the high reaching conspiracy - seemed to suggest such fireworks. "Red", though, comes across more like free jazz, an action film decidedly uninterested in the finer points of the plot and, well, the action scenes. It's actually less fun watching Helen Mirren fire a machine gun than watching how matter-of-factly John Malkovich goes about re-loading the machine gun for her.

(John Malkovich, by the way, is just an absolute master at doing something with nothing. His facial expressions throughout "Red" are magnificent. Watch him on the right edge of the frame after Morgan Freeman says, "Looks like we're getting the band back together." And as for Morgan Freeman, well, is there another actor alive who, when a guy enters the retirement home to plug him in the back, could so convincingly lend gravitas to the line, "So it's like that, huh?" )

Perhaps the movie's most serious mis-step is moving Mary Louise Parker's innocent Sarah Ross (i.e. Shaniqua Johnson), the pension call center rep from Kansas City with whom Bruce Willis's Frank Moses falls in love over the phone and whom he kidnaps when her life is put at risk, out of the picture in the third act as the obligatory pawn/hostage. She's a romantic who reads trashy novels like "Love's Savage Secret", dreams of a vacation to Chile, goes on endless bad dates, drinks Corona outta the can, and in the middle of the aforementioned C.I.A. break in pauses to smile, giggle and wonder "What do you suppose the punishment is for what we're doing?" "Death," Moses replies. "Maybe life in prison." "Yes!" Sarah exclaims.

She is where the spirit of "Red" lies which is why "Red" actually should have been more like a movie called "Love's Savage Secret."

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