Werther’s get swapped for weapons in Bruce Willis’ new actioner, but PARK CHUI thinks oldies are better off indoors.

action Bruce Willis Film helen mirren john malkovich morgan freeman oap red


Directed by Robert Schwentke

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As a trailer, RED looked entertaining. Brief moments of comedy, Helen Mirren firing an enormous machine gun, and an improbably beautiful CGI car stunt all hinted that the film might be quite fun. Sadly, any optimism seems to have been misplaced.

RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) stars Bruce Willis as Frank Moses, a retired CIA operative. When assassins storm his house, Frank escapes, and gathers old accomplices (Mirren, joined by fellow acting heavyweights John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman) to help him find out why he’s being targeted. Despite the acting gravitas that RED has attracted, Freeman and Mirren are underused, and Malkovich outstays his welcome with an extravagantly quirky performance as an LSD-addled conspiracy theorist. Willis’ character name is Frank Moses, but he may as well be credited as John McClane – but this is more Try Hard than Die Hard.

Billed as an action-comedy movie filmed with a veteran cast, it’s amazing that geriatrics do not make for a larger part of the film’s script. This would have given an ironically fresher feel to RED’s arthritis-ridden joints, and is an opportunity sorely missed. At no point does the film give a sense of the age of its protagonists, with Willis in particular outmuscling his foes without even stopping to catch his breath.

Even the action elements of the film feel tired and there are very few exciting scenes in the film. The aforementioned car stunt looks incredible, but no other shot in RED comes close to matching it for originality or quality. The hand-to-hand fight scenes are poorly directed, with far too many close-up shots giving a disorientating feel. In a well-done action scene, the excitement comes from seeing what the bigger picture is, not from flashes of limbs flailing around in an indefinable melee.

The comedy, on the other hand, could be seen as a saving grace of the film. Mirren has surprisingly excellent comic timing, and the earlier part of Malkovich’s performance is enjoyable, but becomes one-note and irritating. That said, for a film which boasts an Oscar-winning actress giving Arnie a run for his money, RED is about as fun as bingo night at the retirement home.