‘Red’ fails to hit its intended target

Scott Viau

I’m not a fan of action movies. For one reason or another, the endless scenes of punching, running, shooting and kicking don’t really do it for me. Yet for all the actions scenes “Red” showed in the trailer, I thought it was going to be something more than that, something that would raise it above the average spy vs. spy comedy that it is. But what starts off promising soon goes back undercover into the terrain of the typical.

Frank Moses (Willis) is R.E.D., Retired, Extremely Dangerous. He lives alone in a large house and his only companion is Sarah Moss (Parker), the woman he speaks to over the phone in order to discuss his pension checks. When CIA agents come to his house to kill him, he takes down all of them and goes to Moss’ house in order to protect her. She is not initially pleased to see him as she was unaware of his ex-CIA status. After a little convincing Moss and Moses soon gather up the old gang of CIA agents in order to take down a corrupt, upper echelon politician that is plotting their demise.

For such a stellar cast, the actors did not bring their A-game, which is understandable given the plot of “Red.” Willis has two acting personas: the regular guy and the action hero. He uses both here but they’re both so tired and overused that it’s painfully obvious Willis is phoning it in. Not even Morgan Freeman can narrate his way to a better performance. I’m sure the actors had a lot of fun off-camera, but that just didn’t translate well to the screen.

I have such mixed feelings about Mary-Louise Parker. I just see the same acting technique in every performance she gives, with the exception of “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” However, I’m pleased to say that in “Red,” she’s charming. The real reason I wanted to see “Red,” though, was because of Helen Mirren. She’s the best example of a first-class actress and her participation in such an offbeat film for her made it a must-see. Mirren, for all the sophistication she’s able to bring, cannot save the film from going downhill.

I’ve never read the graphic novel upon which “Red” is based, but I can’t imagine the film took too much from it visually. The cinematography is bland and doesn’t capture the frenetic energy the film should have given. Although there should be an air of mystery to the film, the screenplay makes it so confusing that audiences won’t know what’s going on until the film actually spells it out for them. It’s an insult to the filmgoer that unnecessary exposition is used in place of clues that could be pieced together. However, the editing of the action scenes is done well and credit must be given where it’s due.

It’s not the best movie someone could choose to see this weekend, but one could do far worse. Just don’t go in expecting an overly clever action film. While there are a few smiles throughout the film, it doesn’t live up to the potential that it could have.