RED (2010)

2011 #88
Robert Schwentke | 111 mins | Blu-ray | 2.40:1 | USA / English | 12 / PG-13

REDRED here stands for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous”, a description bestowed by the CIA on a group of former agents who, for reasons I won’t go into — because, quite frankly, I can’t remember — fight back against the Agency when someone starts trying to kill them.

RED is just one in a recent array of tongue-in-cheek action films; films that aren’t strictly comedies but aren’t wholly serious either, meaning they can push their action sequences to ludicrous extremes and get away with it. They’re also a lot of fun and I love them. I love a gritty and serious Bourne as much as your next man, or a traditional action film too, but there’s also room for films that are daft, fun, knowingly silly rather than just ridiculous. Films like The A-Team, Knight and Day and RED — and I’ve enjoyed all of them.

So (to slightly repeat myself) it’s all daft, but it’s all fun. The action is thoroughly OTT, but inventive with it. It manages to be very amusing as well as quite excitingly action-y. It even begins as a rom-com, which is an interesting tactic. It’s not what you’re expecting from an action movie, but surely no one is ever going to watch this and be fooled? Does anyone watch films completely unaware of what they are?

Mad MalkovichNaturally, considering the theme, the cast is made up of older actors — a neat twist on the usual action movie format of making people younger and younger. Expect this to spread, especially as anyone that could still just about be dubbed a movie star is ageing, replaced only by flash-in-the-pan teen idols. They’re all great because they’re all great actors. Well, Bruce Willis isn’t a Great Actor like Helen Mirren or Morgan Freeman, but he can do an action movie and he can do humour well enough. John Malkovich is as barmy as he always is, but here it works. Sometimes things just line up like that. Karl Urban also gives another solid supporting turn. I’m sure he’s had a few lead roles at this point, but maybe this autumn’s Dredd will finally cement him as a viable action leading man.

Stray thought: it’s set at Christmas, despite an autumnal release date. An extremely subtle Die Hard reference? There doesn’t seem to be any other reason for it.

If I have one criticism it’s that it’s perhaps too long. It begins to drag a little in places and is unable to sustain its own craziness throughout the third act. But until then it’s a lot of fun, and after decades of Very Serious action movies, isn’t it nice to be allowed to have fun?

4 out of 5

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