Red – Bruce Willis Blows Shit Up

Picture, if you will, the perfect day: you wake up early and grab a quick haircut (to hide the balding); next you purloin a new school ID card even though you’ve already graduated (so you can sneak into parties); then you head to the doctor and convince them to give you a slew of prescriptions (because you’re losing health insurance in 10 days); and finally you finish strong by pounding some beers and cheering on your school’s first collegiate Starcraft II tournament (no explanation necessary). I don’t know about you, but after a red-letter day like that, I knew the only place I could go was down.

What a conviction-altering relief it was, then, to see Red that evening. The awesome action, considerable comedy, and magnificent music teamed up like old friends long separated to create one hell of an enjoyable movie. At the beginning, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) finds himself sitting at home living an unfulfilling life. His one escape is his strictly telephonic relationship with Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), an overcubicled employee at Frank’s retirement fund company who has a penchant for romance novels. After a quiet introduction, things get a little more interesting when an elite team of agents arrives at Moses’ house to kill him. After dispatching that minor inconvenience, Retired and Extremely Dangerous Mr. Moses has no choice but to catch a red eye to Kansas City, kidnap Sarah and drag her along on his adventure. She complains here and there, but you can tell she’s enjoying it. After all, it’s just like the book she’s reading: Love’s Savage Secret (turns out the secret was good communication). From there, they pick up some more members, blow some shit up, and generally paint the town red.

You know, I keep thinking I’ve seen every sweet stunt, car chase, and fist fight imaginable, but then something like this comes along. It spends half its time making me laugh, and it still manages to invent fight sequences that had me explaining them in detail over and over to my fellow moviegoers afterward. They kept insisting that they, too, had seen it, but I still don’t think they ever fully understood how badass it was when Bruce Willis stepped out of that spinning car, gun blazing. Man, so cool.

But cool can only get you so far. Red travels the rest of the way on the backs of its comedic cast. The script plays up the actors’ ages just the right amount, funny but not overdone—e.g., after killing a bunch of people, Willis straightens out not the suit jacket, but the pajama robe. Plus, the relationships are hilarious. In the Red universe, you know a woman truly loves you when the bullets she pumps into your chest are meant only to wound and not kill. And I have to give a shoutout to John Malkovich, someone I’ve basically only ever seen Being himself. He’s hilarious, and at his introduction, Frank Moses tells Sarah not to “talk about satellites” around him, and she responds with “Seriously?” Now that’s some subtle humor, because how do we know she wasn’t actually asking “Siriusly?” as in, “Does that include satellite radio?” Clever movie indeed.

A clever movie with good music—it fuses old western twang and rocking metal to make every scene a modernized showdown. The music was so good that I actually noticed it, although maybe that makes it toooo good. Perhaps Christophe Beck needs to stop being so excellent.

Not everything was at an iron maiden level of excellence, however. The bad guys’ motivations were pretty murky. I mean, the vice president makes sense (they’re inherently evil), but there was this second big bad with no clear stake in anything. His death, while welcome, was unsatisfying. I wanted to really hate the guy I saw die in the climax, but Red opted for flimsy twists and red herrings rather than simple catharsis. Also, the final action scene is rather lengthy and not nearly as innovative as the rest. They do make it amusing, but there wasn’t one new stunt. Plus, Frank Moses is clearly the main character, and he sits out the entire final battle. I kept waiting for him to come in and do something amazing, but unlike the little kid on the tricycle from The Incredibles, my wish was not granted.

Here’s the skinny. Red is a great action comedy. It does both of those things to a “t,” and if you’re like me, you love Bruce Willis, so enjoying it was never really a question. All in all, Red was a really excellent denouement to my day.

4/5 Stars

Bonus Rating! Red’s one F-Bomb is delivered by Karl Urban in the form of “Fuck you, Cynthia.” It’s no “Yippee-ki-yay motherfucker,” and we barely know who Cynthia is, but Karl Urban is boss and has a hella deep voice, so it’ll do. F-Bomb Meter: 50%

Written by Russ Nickel

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