RED: The Film Babble Blog Review

RED (Dir. Robert Schwentke, 2010)

Sometimes it seems like every other movie opening this year at the multiplex is a comic throwback to ‘80s action movies or based on a graphic novel I wasn’t aware of before.

To its credit RED is both. But that’s the only credit I’ll give this unfunny overblown mess though.

RED is titled after the stamp on agent Frank Moses’ (Bruce Willis) file, meaning “retired, extremely dangerous.”

Willis leads a mundane life as a former Black Ops CIA agent who tears up his retirement checks just so he can continue to call customer service representative Mary Louise Parker because he has a crush on her.

Before you know it Willis is on the run from government assassins and he abducts Parker for the ride. She goes along with it in her typical jaded Weeds fashion, but the unbelievable and incredibly contrived nature of her role never convinces for a second.

Parker’s life before was boring and now she’s caught up in a world of espionage – I get it, but it’s such a cringing cliché with a capital C.

He re-unites his old crew – the all star cast of Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Ernest Borgnine and John Malkovich – to fight the attackers and it’s one shoot-em-up after another.

The film is solidly staged but it’s a joyless affair with really poorly written dialogue and a distinct lack of laughs.

At this point in Willis’s career it’s surprising he would be attracted to this boring by-the-numbers material.

Willis just sleep walks (sometimes in slow motion) through a barely interesting plot handled with a hodgepodge of styles and clashing tones. The narrative involves a cover-up of Guatemalan slayings orchestrated by the Vice President (Julian McMahon).

There’s some seriousness in the seams but it’s overshadowed by cloying silliness. It’s also off-putting that the film has an unbearable sense of self satisfaction.

Malkovich as a jacked up explosives expert appears to be having fun with his role, but with such lame one-liners (none of which I can remember or else I’d quote one) that feeling is far from contagious.

Freeman, who is 73, plays an 80 year old ex-agent – a role that requires no heavy lifting, just his patented homespun delivery. Borgnine is 93 and like Malkovich he’s seems to be having a good time. Maybe he’s just happy to be anywhere these days.

Then there’s Dame Helen Mirren in a white evening gown firing a machine gun. That’s supposed to be a hilarious image, but it creaks like everything else in this misguided movie.

Oh, and I shouldn’t forget Richard Dreyfuss, still channeling Dick Cheney from W, as a bad guy who is also saddled with lines that fall flat. “I did it for the money” Dreyfuss revealed in a recent interview. It sure shows.

I saw somebody on a message board refer to this film as THE EXPENDABLES but with people who can actually act.” I can go with that because just like that Sylvester Stallone all star vehicle, this is ultimately a lame package.

RED, which I think should stand for Really Excruciating Drivel, is a waste every way you can cut it.

More later…

Sylvester Stallone & His All Star Band!

(Dir. Sylvester Stallone, 2010)

This is the definition of a critic proof movie – as its rating on the Rotten Tomatometer rapidly falls (in a week it fell from 58% to 39%) its box office rises – its been #1 since it opened with a gross nearing $70 million so far.

Apparently America wants a big badass blockbuster with a crew of well known action stars. Call it “Monsters of Mediocrity” if you will, but triple threat (actor/writer/director) Sylvester Stallone has assembled a sturdy team of action movie mavericks including Jason Statham, Jet Li, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and Dolph Lundgren.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that from the trailer that Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are on the mission too, but they only appear in one scene that tries, but fails to make much of a punch.

That could be said of the whole movie with its generic let’s-throw-over-a-corrupt-Latin American-dictator premise, but there is some fun to be had with this ‘80s throwback even if it oddly has too much downtime.

Mickey Rourke has a longer appearance than Willis and Schwarzenegger, but it’s still another glorified cameo as he never leaves his tattoo parlor. Rourke has one of the only serious dramatic moments telling a story about a woman that he failed to save from suicide that brings tears to his eyes. In a movie like this I really didn’t expect to see Rourke cry.

It’s mainly Stallone and Stratham’s show as they spend the largest amount of screen time getting each others backs in fights and shoot outs. The ending is a giant shit-storm of machine gun fire and explosions on top of explosions as expected. It’s played out in a lot of darkness and hyper cutting that makes it hard to follow, but if you like a lot of fiery explosions it should make your day.

Oh, there’s also Giselle Itié as the underwritten damsel in distress (What – An underwritten woman role in a Stallone action flick?) fighting for her poverty stricken people, her angry General father played by David Zayas (Angel Batista on Dexter), and Eric Roberts as an evil ex-CIA man agent backing the dictatorship.

THE EXPENDABLES is undercooked and overblown at the same time, but its core audience doesn’t appear to care. I shouldn’t either because this kind of mindlessness really shouldn’t be minded.

More later…

Good Cop/Goofy Cop

COP OUT (Dir. Kevin Smith, 2010)

“It’s a homage.” So says goofy rubber faced plainclothes cop Tracy Morgan of his unorthodox interrogation methods to his partner of 9 years, a stonewalling yet smirking Bruce Willis. These methods are going to be familiar to anyone who’s ever watched 30 Rock – Morgan does his patented crazy shtick.

As Willis watches through a one way mirror, Morgan freaks out their suspect by yielding a gun and yelling movie quotes like “they call me Mister Tibbs,” and “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for” even going for “Yippeekiyay, motherfucker!”

Willis, in his definitively detached manner, says: “I never saw that movie.”

If that sounds funny to you, ignore the rest of this review and go see this movie – more such supposedly uproarious self-aware referencing awaits.

Cool, now that those people are gone I can tell the rest of you that this is one painfully unfunny film. Though it wasn’t written by Kevin Smith (the screenplay is by Robb and Mark Cullen) it feels like it was in the worst way – at Smith’s most hammiest and hackiest. It strains with every cut to elicit laughs, but cringes are what result from this tired and truly tiresome material.

What there is of a premise involves Mexican gangsters headed by Guillermo Diaz, Seann William Scott as an annoying thief, and a stolen baseball card worth 80 thousand dollars. The card belonged to Willis, who was hoping to use it to pay for his daughter’s (Michelle Trachtenberg) dream wedding. Otherwise Smith regular Jason Lee as Willis’ wife’s smarmy new husband will pay for it and humiliate him. Ho hum.

Morgan meanwhile deals with his wife’s (Rashida Jones) possible infidelity with a neighbor by placing a nanny cam in a teddy bear in their bedroom. So both cops drive around Brooklyn from one poorly constructed plot point to another bitching about these hardships
while barely creating an audible chuckle from the audience.

One of the only inspired elements present is the soundtrack. It was a savvy move to employ famed electronic composer Harold Faltermeyer to do the score. His “Axel F”-ish waves of synthesizer and jaunty rhythms work better than anything else in the film to capture the genre aesthetic. A new Patti LaBelle song (“Soul Brothers”) accompanying the end credits also hammers home the 80’s mindset.

You’re better off sticking with watching Morgan on 30 Rock from which he even does some of the same lines (“you’re sweet like bear meat”) and renting HOT FUZZ if you haven’t seen it. Now there’s a sharp satire of the buddy cop action movies.

COP OUT is a lot like Morgan’s misunderstanding (and mis-pronouncing) the word “homage” – it’s not a send up or anything close to a fresh take on the formula, it’s just formula.

More later…