'RED': tired, extremely average

"RED" Pitchforks: 2.5 out of 5 Starring: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich Rating: PG-13

Just because a movie has an ensemble cast does not give it a license to be unimaginative.

Apparently the people who made “RED” (Retired: Extremely Dangerous), a film about retired secret agents, did not have proper clearance to read the file on exciting film making.

Staring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freemen, “RED” relies too heavily on its wow-factor cast, who all seem bored, and has a too-uninspired script to be anything “extreme.” Unless you can be extremely average.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) has a boring life. You can tell because the first ten minutes of the film emphasize just how mundane Moses’s daily routine is. To pass the time, Moses tears up his retirement checks and calls Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), the woman who works at the call center and gets him replacements. It’s a cute romance, with Moses fumbling over his words and Ross flashing her toothy grin.

Then all hell breaks loose when Moses’ house is invaded by South African hitmen, forcing him to escape to Kansas City where Ross lives to save both his life and hers.

Moses then discovers that everyone on his old crew is on some type of hitlist, with the members of the crew the only ones still alive. Time for Moses to get the old crew back together. Yes, a clichéd line, but I’m quoting the movie, so don’t fault me, fault it. The crew gets together after some bumps in the road. It’s here where the film gets slightly more interesting. John Malkovich is amusing as Marvin Boggs, an ex-CIA agent who was given daily doses of LSD in a government experiment, causing him extreme paranoia. He’s the wild card who is sometimes cute, sometimes zany.

Malkovich gets all the laughs, save one or two for Parker, and is the only actor in the film who seems like he’s trying even a little bit. Every other character is an unimaginative cliché archetype. Helen Mirren, a former MI6 agent, refers to Frank as Frances because British people are classy. Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox) a former Russian spy, loves his vodka and has a Russian accent that would scare the pants off Sen. Joe McCarthy if it didn’t make him laugh them off first.

“RED” is based on a DC comic book, giving it at the very least an excuse for having such stereotypical characters. But this isn’t a Saturday morning special, nor is it animated. With such esteemed actors, one goes in to the theater expecting some, I don’t know, acting maybe. Instead we have an ensemble cast spewing out almost as many cheesy lines as their guns shoot out bullets.

On the subject of bullets, there’s no shortage of them in “RED.” Comic book violence is something that is black and white — if you’re going to pull it off, you have to go all out. It’s got to be gross, unapologetic, comic and gratuitous. “RED” tries to explore the grey area of the subject, blowing up a person here and there while shooting off rockets and a couple thousand rounds, but at its heart, it’s PG-13 violence. Instead of being able to relish in the ridiculousness of the violence, the shear volume of it all becomes distracting and headache inducing.

On top of all this, the film tries to make something serious of the predictable plot — a conspiracy theory that goes all the way to the top. Please. Either embrace the clichés and the comic book corniness of it all or be a serious film about a conspiracy theory. The unevenness just emphasizes the flaws.

Reach the reporter at pmelbour@asu.edu


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