DVD: Red (2010)

January 29, 2011 | By

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Film: very Good / DVD Transfer: Excellent / DVD Extras: Very Good

Label: Summit/ Region: 1 (NTSC) / Released: January 25, 2011

Genre: Action / Comic Book

Synopsis: A band of retired CIA agents fight back when someone hunts them down with seemingly no logic besides a found list.

Special Features: CIA Exposed: Audio Commentary with retired CIA Field Officer Robert Baer / Deleted and Extended Scenes / Access Red: Immersive 6-part interactive feature including pop up trivia, videos, interviews and more

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Review:

After a promising debut with the noir / Se7en riff Tattoo (2002), German director Robert Schwentke did what most foreign directors are compelled to do at least once in their career: come to Hollywood, which he did, and his first venture was Flightplan (2005), the morose tale of a widow losing her daughter on the new mega-Airbus plane with no one believing she boarded as mother + daughter.

That drama’s second act became a tedious thriller whose villains were easily identified within the first hour. Schwentke’s next American film had him trying to make sense of Bruce Jay Rubin’s terrible adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s novel The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009), which needed reshoots in Toronto that failed to make the film nothing more than manipulative romantic crap with plot holes bigger than the CN Tower.

Red, based on Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner’s graphic novel and adapted by Jon and Erich Hoeber (Whiteout), was a substantive improvement over Schwentke’s prior English language work, and while mood and a great visual style are present in his films, Red has a plot that’s very simple: retired CIA operatives find themselves being hunted down by younger agents, and when the culprit is finally revealed, they turn the tables.

Nothing in Red is serious, but its lightness as an action-comedy comic book movie is also its downfall. Unlike The Losers – which contains a similar plot of covert operatives using their skills to track down and unmask the villain(s) responsible for a grand assassination attempt – Red is mostly all fluff, and for a while it’s giddy fun to watch its superb living legends cast bouncing off each other and having fun, but little by little, it’s clear that without its action scenes, Red isn’t sufficiently witty or original, and the dialogue lacks the wryness that made Kick-Ass and The Losers much more fun.

Red does have fine moments of absurdity, but they’re infrequent. One highlight worth mentioning is a single shot where Bruce Willis makes use of “the pig” (a RPG launcher) and we follow the path as the rocket leaves the launcher, arcs in the sky, drops down on its target, and blows the shit out of a villainous thug. It’s a superb Road Runner moment, and more would’ve helped between the bridge scenes that generally have Willis and Mary-Louise Parker doing road trips in stolen vehicles.

Willis effectively downplays his role as kind of a humble bureaucrat who happens to be in love with the phone operator he snatched (Parker), Karl Urban keeps the nasty bruises of his fights instead of getting little Hollywood scars that heal magically over hours, Ernest Borgnine steals our attention in his two scenes as a benevolent records keeper, Brian Cox is marvelous as an ex-KGB spy who wants just one more kill because he’s in ‘assassination withdrawal,’ and Helen Mirren is the sexiest over 50 CIA agent, firing an awesome sub-machine gun and doing great stuntwork with automatic weapons in a white evening dress.

Unlike his prior dour and gloomy films, Red proves Schwentke has a sense of humour, and he’s quite capable of finding and milking lightness in otherwise tightly-choreographed action and fight scenes. Willis and Urban beating the crap out of each other is memorable, as is Mirren’s gunplay in a parking garage – both sharply edited by veteran Thom Noble (Thelma and Louise).

Composer Christophe Beck (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Waiting for Superman) provides a strangely effective blend of blues, funk, and electronica, and Florian Ballhaus’ cinematography is lush in colour and detail. There are many practical effects, and the production made good use of the brief New Orleans and Toronto locations, with the latter substituting for many major U.S. cities. (Torontonians will easily pick out the Toronto Reference Library, The Royal York Hotel, the Hearne Generating Station, and Chinatown by Spadina.)

Summit Entertainment’s DVD includes a handful of decent extras, and among the deleted scenes the only shorn material that should’ve been retained are two scenes between Urban and Michelle Nolden as his wife, which humanize Urban’s character as a decent guy doing a job and struggling to find emotional intimacy with his family when he’s always on call. The rest are just scene extensions that add little more than dialogue, or a slightly longer (but inferior) end scene prior to the credit roll.

Red is amiable comic book fluff leavened by a fantastic cast, but hardly the beginning of a potential franchise.

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© 2011 Mark R. Hasan

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Related external links (MAIN SITE):

CD: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2008)Waiting for Superman (2010)

DVD / Film:  Kick-Ass (2010) — Losers, The (2010) — Whiteout (2009)

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External References:

IMDB Official Website —  Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography

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Buy from:

Amazon.comRed (Special Edition)

Amazon.caRed

Amazon.co.uk Red [DVD] [2010]

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