Patience is key when it comes to RED, the latest action ensemble to hit the cinema.
Not only does RED continue the trend of the “men on a mission” action thriller (The Expendables, The Losers), it is also based on a graphic novel (chique talk for comic book), an overused piece of source material which has taken over the imagination and wallets of Hollywood, although it can be argued the former was lacking anyway.
Yet for its many flaws, RED often counters with a moment of such brilliant lunacy that it’s hard not to fall head over popcorn for it.
The film focuses on a group of Retired and Extremely Dangerous (RED) CIA super agents, living out there post-espionage careers in mundane fashion.
This is shown in its opening scenes, as Bruce Willis’ Frank Moses undergoes the same ol’ routine, the brief long distance telephone flirt with Mary Louise Parker’s social security consultant breaking the cycle.
Things change when someone orders a hit on Moses and his equally retired crew (Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich), which springs them back into action albeit much older, yet just as lethal.
Although action is its game, RED hits its targets only half of the time. Supposedly snappy one liners don’t always succeed, an overbearing score distracts, and Robert Schwetke’s direction ranges from dizzying in its action sequences, to lethargic for the moments in between.
What saves it from the DVD dump bin as a choice cast who deliver entertaining performances.
John Malkovich does batshit crazy unlike no other, and the one upmanship between Willis’ veteran and Karl Urban’s young buck agent (assigned to catch him), gives way to some fine fight scenes and witty bravado between the two.
Yet it is Helen Mirren who is truly sublime, the great dame stealing the movie from the lads, while pulling off eloquence with gunplay.
It is from the moment of her introduction that RED finally comes into its own, as its sporadic elements gel into a solid, yet underachieving, action comedy.
Like its veteran cast, RED is the action movie equivalent to a fine wine: give it time and watch it bloom into something worth digesting. Just mind the aftertaste.