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Entries in Mary-Louise Parker (2)

Friday
Jul192013

Red 2

It was a great year for movies in 2010. Pixar put out their most mature film to date with “Toy Story 3,” David Fincher blew us all away with his masterful Facebook movie, “The Social Network,” we saw a completely different side of Natalie Portman in the haunting “Black Swan” and Colin Firth gave an unforgettable performance in the Best Picture Academy Award winner, “The King’s Speech.” But the year was also full of perplexing oddities, movies that gained a surprisingly large fanbase and a warm critical reception when they hardly did anything special. “Red” was one of those movies. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t particularly interesting either and, despite some minor improvements, “Red 2” is just more of the same, for better or worse.

Much like the previous film, ex-black ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is on the run, deemed a domestic terrorist by his own government, and, through some complicated plot structuring, on the hunt for a dangerous portable nuclear device that was previously thought to be nothing more than a Cold War myth. To help him, he enlists the help of his old buddies, Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren). It gets more complicated, however, when he learns that the world’s greatest contract killer, Han (Byung-hun Lee), is out to kill him, all while a former fling and Russian counter intelligence agent, Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones), attempts to seduce him to fulfill her own ulterior motives, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker).

The best part of the original “Red” was not the action scenes, but rather the banter between the group. Watching these veteran actors play off each other is an absolute joy, but it was bogged down in the first film by what can only be described as pseudo-hipster dialogue, a lame attempt to spice the film up and cater to a younger demographic, despite the older cast. Thankfully, much of that is gone here while the witty banter remains. Malkovich is at the top of his game, eliciting laughs with the slightest of facial cues and many of the one-liners are undeniably amusing.

But the film never goes past that amusing state. “Red 2” is humorous, but it’s never really funny. It’s clever, but it’s never really smart. It’s lighthearted, but it merely teeters on the edge of being fun. The movie plays out almost like something that’s surprised it exists in the first place, rarely venturing beyond what barely worked in its predecessor and rehashing the same pleasant, yet unimpressive, style and tone. Where the film steps it up is in its get-to-the-point dialogue that does away with needless filler (like in the first movie when Morgan Freeman revealed he had stage four level cancer and then completely drops it, not unlike the breast cancer line in Tommy Wiseau’s infamous “The Room”) and in its varied action.

The first film was boring. It moved slowly and its action took place in some of the most clichéd places imaginable. Locations like a shipping container yard and parking garages were its highlights, giving it a feeling of a generic shoot ‘em up video game. Due to the nature of its story, “Red 2” jet sets all around the world (sometimes to an annoying and confusing degree), but it gives way to a number of various locales that were all but missing in the original. There’s a great hand-to-hand battle in an airport hangar, a suspenseful infiltration of the Moscow Kremlin and a terrific finale that takes place in the Iranian embassy in London. While much of the action is far-fetched (and if you want to see aging movie stars wielding giant weapons, you’re better off checking out the far more entertaining “Expendables” movies), it’s this diversity that keeps it interesting.

Although “Red” wasn’t an unpleasant movie, it was too bland and generic to stand out. “Red 2” has many of the same problems, but it fixes enough of them to make it the easy choice among the two. Certain scenes are so good, particularly the interesting new take on interrogations—turns out there’s no need for torture; just get the victim all hot and bothered by a beautiful woman and he’ll tell you everything—that they’re almost worth the price of admission alone. Luckily, there’s a bit more here than just random scenes that work. You still won’t care about what ultimately happens, but you’ll have a pleasant enough trip getting there.

Red 2 receives 3/5

Friday
Oct152010

Red

It’s not everyday you get to see Helen Mirren wield an Uzi. It’s with this thought that I found myself so excited for Red, the latest graphic novel to be given the Hollywood treatment. Unfortunately, it’s a movie that can only be described as a polished mess. It takes more than some decent hand-to-hand fighting choreography and an A-list cast of actors to make a riveting action movie.

Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, an ex CIA black op agent who has little interaction with the outside world apart from his phone calls to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a government pension administrator. Although they have never met, there’s a connection and when he tells her he is about to visit her area, they decide to meet up. But before he leaves, he is nearly killed, discovering he is now on the government's hit list and unsure why. After discussing it with former partners Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Mirren), he and his gang head out in search of some answers.

There’s no shortage of comic book movies, or on an even broader scale action movies, in Hollywood. Red is merely another in a long line of mediocrity, but it tries real hard to be something different. It tries to make interesting the action by giving loud weapons to actors that are aged well into their 60’s and 70’s and by including poorly written pseudo-hipster dialogue that is laughable coming out of their mouths.

The fact of the matter is that compared to recent comic book movies, this isn’t as funny as Kick Ass or as original as Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and when it comes to action, it’s not as exciting as something like The Expendables or The A-Team. It’s a third rate combination of all of those films.

What’s disappointing, outside of its lack of originality and misappropriation of its stars, is that for an action flick, it moves slow. It wastes its time with needless conversations that contribute so little to the plot that their inclusion is nebulous at best. Take for instance an early scene where Joe tells Frank he has stage four level cancer. This little anecdote is brought up and dropped so quickly it recalls memories of the breast cancer line in Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.

When Red finally does take time for some action, it’s generic fare, with gun battles in a maze of shipping containers and parking garages. The most interesting scenarios in the whole film are sidestepped by the most convenient placement of characters I’ve seen in a while. Whenever somebody was in peril, a distant friend would show up at the exact right moment and snatch them away from harm. This tactic is repeated a number of times, further crippling its already crumbling structure.

I didn’t hate Red, however, despite my criticisms. Bruce Willis oozes cool in the film and never breaks a sweat, even when surrounded on all sides and facing a hail of bullets, and although Mirren and Freeman aren’t given much to do, it was interesting seeing them at their age as the main stars of a comic book action movie. The fun the actors had making Red comes across onscreen, but that fun never reaches us.

Red receives 2/5