RED (2010)
By: Rip on July 4, 2011  | 
Icon | Region B | 2.40:1, 1080p | English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 | 111 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Morgan Freeman, Brian Cox
Screenplay: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
Country: USA
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Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) and former MI6 agent Victoria (Helen Mirren) are RED (that's Retired Extremely Dangerous) and were once the CIA's top agents. But the knowledge they possess regarding a top-secret government operation in Guatemala during the 80's has just made them the Agency's number one targets. Now framed for assassination, they team up, using all of their collective cunning and experience to stay alive and one step ahead of the Agency, led by CIA attack dog, Cooper (Karl Urban). To stop the operation, Frank and his team embark on an impossible, cross-country mission to break into the top-secret CIA headquarters, where they will uncover one of the biggest conspiracies and cover-ups in US government history.

Viewed on one level, there's nothing special about RED, and one could say that it's pretty standard action movie fare. But there are two things that set it apart from the pack: one being the humour. The characters crack jokes and make light of their situation, well aware that they're likely to die at any given moment. The film is based on the DC graphic novel by Warren Ellis and is similar to another recent DC comicbook adaptation, The Losers, another action comedy that didn't do so well, but was decent enough entertainment, even if we had seen it all before. But RED has quite a few advantages over that film, and what really makes it a lot of fun, isn't the action at all (fear not, action fans, there's plenty of that and it is fun). At the heart of this movie is the shared chemistry between the characters and this really is the second big thing the film has going for it. Director Robert Schwentke had only a few features up his sleeve prior to this, including The Time Traveller's Wife, and here he makes a far more confident impression with a lighter touch and an ability to choreograph coherent action sequences, something sorely lacking in many of today's over-edited action flicks. The beautiful scope cinematography by Florian Ballhaus is noteworthy, as is the cracking original score by Christophe Beck, which also features some great blues and soul numbers by the likes of Muddy Waters and Solomon Burke. But ultimately, it's the wonderful cast that many are here for and they don't disappoint.

Despite the potential claim that they're 'slumming', not one cast member phones their performance in. They each invest themselves in their respective roles and we as the audience have no trouble accepting such unlikely sights as Helen Mirren wielding a belt-fed machine gun that's almost bigger than her. Bruce Willis is perfectly cast as Frank Moses (if in reality, at 55, a little young to be retired!). This is the type of part that fits him like a glove, that of the smart-arse tough guy with a good heart and a soft spot. He's the type of guy who can take apart a team of trained assassins, crack a joke, and fall in love with a pretty girl all at the same time. Morgan Freeman is his usual strong and reliable self, bringing a wry coolness to Joe Matheson, who at 80 years of age and with with terminal cancer, would still put a bullet in you with a smile on his face. Unsurprisingly, John Malcovich steals the show as Marvin Boggs, the former agent who had LSD experiments conducted on him during his time with the CIA, and who is now a manic sociopath who lugs a pink stuffed pig around with him, completely paranoid and always ready to whip out a gun with almost infantile pleasure. Then there's the sheer joy of watching divine British screen veteran, Helen Mirren, firing that ruddy great machine gun. She's clearly having a ball and watching her do this is almost worth the price of admission alone. Kiwi actor Karl Urban adds another notch to his growing CV with a fine turn as the doggedly determined CIA agent, William Cooper, and his crunching fight scene with Willis is one of the best I've seen on film in quite a while. We also have the adorable Mary-Louise Parker, very funny as the government call-center girl, Sarah, unwittingly dragged in to the scenario by Willis, the great Brian Cox as former KGB agent Ivan Simanov (who shares some wonderfully sweet moments with Mirren; they're also playing ex-lovers), a hilariously onbnoxious Richard Dreyfuss in a rare villianous role, Rebecca Pidgeon (that's Mrs David Mamet to you) as an ice-cold CIA Head, 'our' Julian McMahon suitably cast as a smarmy senator, and even the legendary Ernest Borgnine shows up,still going strong at 94 years of age.

Unlike Clint Eastwood's geriatrics-in-space movie, Space Cowboys or the cringe-worthy Wild Hogs, the 'experience-trumping-youth' theme of RED is a lot more fun, even if the suspension of disbelief required isn't really all that different. Unlike those films, what we have here is energetic, high octane entertainment. It never takes itself too seriously and that's probably a good thing because it's a bit of a stretch to imagine some of these actors doing the stuff they're called upon to do. But then, that's the point and it's exactly what makes RED such a good time.
RED looks fantastic on Blu-ray, with a bright and clear, highly detailed image. Colours are positively vibrant and there are absolutely no technical issues to speak of. Full marks all around for this visual presentation.
Oh yeah! Icon Entertainment have given us a superb audio offering with a pounding DTS-HD Master 5.1 track that'll have the foundations shaking. Excellent surround separation really comes to the fore during the film's many shoot-outs and action sequences. Dialogue is always clear and Christophe Beck's score positively pumps. No complaints here. Subtitles for the hearing-impaired are included.
Extra Features
Not a lot to speak of in the supplemental department, but what we do get is quality. Firstly, there is an audio commentary by former CIA operative, Robert Baer, who was technical advisor on RED. One might be surprised to learn that, despite some of the more silly aspects in the film, there is much that is actually rooted in fact. Baer delivers a very interesting commentary, clarifying what is real and what isn't. Good stuff and well worth your time. There is also a picture-in-picture feature that, when accessed, appears in the corner of the screen as a rectangle during the film, showing various on-set interviews, etc. Also included are 10 deleted/extended scenes.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Those looking for a harder edged, ultra-violent and bloody affair, should probably stay away. But if you're up for a delightfully ridiculous, action-packed romp, they don't come much better than RED. It's an exhilarating, tongue-in-cheek ride with a terrific cast that are clearly having so much fun that it actually rubs off on the audience. Icon Entertainment's Blu-ray disc looks and sounds fantastic, and comes with some good extras too.

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