So I ended up seeing Red. In lieu of a good movie, I’ll take one with a bunch of stars to keep an eye on. Granted, these stars be old. Part of me felt like I was too young to be interested in a cast with an average age of 60, but another part of me had been looking at the subway poster for weeks and letting it seep into my subconscious. Like a dummy.
I’m convinced the only reason the movie was given that title is because of the advertising possibilities. The term “Red” is only used once, and in a fairly inconsequential manner (by Ernest Borgnine, no less). I’m sure plenty of people missed it. Red is an acronym, standing for “retired-extremely dangerous.” I mean, how stupid is that? I couldn’t believe it. I really want to know who came up with it, and at what point during the process it was settled on. The whole thing screams “this movie and its cast were put together by pervert producers before there was even a script.”
Thankfully, the title was probably the worst part. I assumed that honor would go to Hellen Mirren as the now painfully hackneyed kick-butt grandma, but her character was less frustrating than the commercials let on. Yes, she is an old lady who kills people. But she doesn’t have any particularly racy lines, and she doesn’t ever kick tons of ass or break-dance or anything like that. I actually sort of liked her if you want to know the truth. All the characters are retired secret agents (or assassins….or something), so she doesn’t stand out as ridiculous. The kick-butt grandma is less aggravating when she’s surrounded by kick-butt grandpas. At that point its a theme, not a desperate grab for lowest common denominator laughs.
I was really ready to hate on Mirren, too. I haven’t seen much of her work, but I’ve definitely read the articles referring to her as a “badass” or claiming she’s even hotter now than 30 years ago. All the classic old woman stuff the media for some reason feels compelled to spew. I assume its mainly female writers doing this. Usually when someone is talking about how hot Susan Sarandon is it’s a woman. Straight women have some pretty weird motivations for who they’ll say is good-looking. Maggie Gyllenhaal has made a career of that.
What I’m getting at is that I researched Mirren a little after seeing Red and I think I actually like her. Atheist, did more theatre than film, never wanted to have kids, relaxed attitude on drug use without making a big deal of it. She consistently came off a little more understated than I expected. And although she really is very attractive for an older woman, she doesn’t play that up too much, either. Not making Maxim-style sex comments or saying things like “I’d do ____. Why not?” I guess being British probably helps her out there. False alarm, people. Nothing overtly offensive here.
The other character I assumed would embarrass himself was Maklovich*. He too ended up being a lot more tolerable than advertised. The shot of him on the movie poster is horrifying. It also wasn’t actually from the movie (none of the poster shots were). He played the “crazy guy”, and it was a tad annoying at times. But he also scored a few laughs. I think he escapes with his reputation intact.
*No, this isn’t a typo. I call him Maklovich. You should try it; its fun. It all started for me in high school when I was looking for ways to annoy my boy Young. He was much more culturally advanced than me, and I used to take immense pleasure from mispronouncing the names of the various actors/writers/musicians he liked. Maklovich was probably the best to come out of that phase. Other favorites were David Bow-eye and Mar-lawn Brando.
Willis and Freeman give you exactly what they always give you. Not that they’re similar in any way, I just mean Willis gives you classic Willis and Freeman gives you classic Freeman. I’m lukewarm on both guys, leaning more towards the positive. Willis has never been above average as an actor, but I’ve liked him from time to time (Sin City, Twelve Monkeys, Fifth Element (am I serious?)). We’ve all probably seen over ten of his movies, so that’s got to count for something. Freeman is consistently good. If I had to guess I’d say both of these guys are probably cool in real life. I always just assume Freeman is a really great guy, but I guess thats because of his typecast as the wise, aging black man*. I feel like I know him, when in reality I know nothing about him. Is he married? Wasn’t there some scandal a while back? I have no idea. I’m not that interested in Freeman or Willis at this point.
*Morgan Freeman. Lester Freeman. Two wisest men in the biz? Who’s that old guy from Count of Monte Cristo and Gladiator? He’d also be in that gang. And then I guess the fourth guy would have to be…..Robin Williams?
I’ll tell you who I am interested in: Mary Louise Parker. And I’m not even a fan of Weeds. I’m just intrigued by her career. She evinces that wholesome vibe, yet has done some surprisingly risqué stuff. Naked pictures of her all over the net. She also played Jesse James’ wife in The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, which was a move I respected given how small the role was. Starring in a successful HBO or Showtime drama has to be kind of a mixed bag. On the one hand, you’re revered by your audience. On the other hand, that audience isn’t big enough to populate movie theaters nationwide. Dominic West was the main character in the coolest TV show of all time and his film career is pathetic.
So what’s a premium channel star to do? Do you try to hold out for respectable but less high-profile roles, focusing on your craft and hoping critics and art house fans notice? Or do you cash those big budget paychecks while you can, knowing you may be flushing any chance at lasting big-screen credibility down the turlet? Tough call. I’ve now seen Parker do both. The former suits her better, obviously. Her part in Red is a shame. She plays Willis’ goofy, bubbly love interest. She’s supposed to be funny I guess, but man is she not. There is nothing remotely interesting or endearing going on here. OK, her look is still very endearing, but the character is just taking up space. In stupid ways. She has duct tape over her mouth for like 10 minutes straight. But get this: she still tries to talk! Sure it’s muffled, but you can hear sounds! And she’s frowning! I really hope it was painful for her to play this part. If it wasn’t, she really sucks. And that would be disappointing to me.
Bryan Cox was also in da how, just like he seemingly always is. If you’re making a mediocre movie and you want a famous-but-not-too-famous old guy, Cox is your man. Phun phakt: Cox was in another movie called Red two years ago. He’s really been around the block these last ten years.
My man Karl Urban was cast as the FBI agent assigned to kill Willis. Urban hasn’t exploded like I’d hoped due to a string of truly terrible choices post-LOTR (Doom, Pathfinder, Riddick), but this was a decent part for him I suppose. I’m hoping his continued presence as Bones in the new Star Trek movies will be enough to keep him around for the long haul. I mean, I barely care, but I’m obviously going to at least passively pull for the guy who played Eomer son of Eomund. Apparently he’ll be playing Judge Dredd in the re-make. That’s right, Hollywood is now re-making mediocre action movies from 15 years ago. Sweet.
I basically just discussed the cast here, but for a movie like this it doesn’t really feel like anything else is needed (or deserved). The cast is what I came to see. And although Red wasn’t terrible, there would be no reason to see it if not for the numerous stars. The plot was pretty bare-bones, frankly. It managed to skate just above embarrassing for the duration. They clearly just wanted to get some famous faces on-screen. There are worse things, I suppose. Like bad movies without famous faces.