RED (2010)

I Am Getting the Pig!

I vaguely remember someone I work with suggesting that I watch today’s movie, but I don’t really remember who.  I think it may have been Eric.  Who suggested it was fairly irrelevant to me because I’m always down to check this movie out.  I don’t remember the circumstances that first lead to me watching this movie.  There’s a possibility that I randomly purchased the movie without having seen it; something that is a rarity for me to do.  I may also have RedBox’d the movie and liked it so much that I immediately purchased it.  Either way, to fulfill this mystery request today, I needed only to walk to my DVD shelves and grab the BluRay.  Doing so brings us up to speed, so let’s review RED, loosely based on a comic book series created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer, written by Erich Hoeber, directed by Robert Schwentke, and starring Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Julian McMahon, Richard Dreyfuss, Karl Urban, Brian Cox, James Remar, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ernest Borgnine, and Audrey Wasilewski.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) leads a pretty boring life in his retirement.  So boring, it seems, that he entertains himself by tearing up his pension checks so that he can call Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a customer service agent at the pension office, and talk with her for a bit.  The hum-drum life he leads is interrupted when one day he goes downstairs and a hit squad appear to attack him.  He kills the bejesus out of them with extreme prejudice and sets off for Kansas City.  CIA agent William Cooper (Karl Urban) is tapped to hunt down Moses and kill him.  It turns out Frank is no ordinary bald dude, but he’s a former black-ops CIA agent who has been tagged “R.E.D.”, or Retired, Extremely Dangerous.  Frank is forced to kidnap Sarah for her own safety and the two set out to get the band back together and find out what’s happening.  With the help of other RED agents – Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox), and Victoria (Helen Mirren) – they find out that their deaths are part of a cover up for the CIA involving people high up on the ladder.  They will most likely kill the shit out of them too.

I really dig this movie.  It suffers a bit from a pretty predictable and familiar story, but saves itself from being too much of the same by telling it in a different and superior way.  The action is over the top and awesome, the movie is a lot of fun for something that’s basically about killing, the performances are delivered by people way over-qualified for such a movie, and the dialogue is very charming.  The action in this movie is a lot of fun.  It’s pretty much all over the top and exciting, and usually framed with some funny dialogue.  I really like the scene you probably saw in the trailer for this movie when Bruce Willis steps out of a spinning cop car and starts firing at Karl Urban, Willis’ legs narrowly being missed by the back of the spinning car.  John Malkovich also shoots a rocket out of mid-air, causing it to explode backwards and kill the person firing it.  I’m sure the Mythbusters would wipe their ass with this notion, but I thought it was awesome, so who cares if it makes sense?  The movie ends on a 20 minute or more action scene of the RED people doing a heist of sorts, but I never got sick of the action because it went on too long.  The movie also had a very satisfying ending.  The throwdown between Willis and Urban in Urban’s office served no purpose to the plot and also seemed a bit out of character for Moses to jeopardize the mission to show Urban that he was better than him, but it was a pretty awesome UFC style throwdown that was amped up by Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle”.  Pointless, but awesome.  Part of what made this movie work for me was the way it was filmed.  They used lots of creative camera angles and cool transitions to make it a very stylized movie, setting itself apart from other action movies.  These were small things that you might not necessarily pay attention to, but subconsciously stick in your mind.  Things like Bruce Willis’ eye transitioning into a bullet in the opening of the movie and John Malkovich flipping off a satellite, transitioning into Karl Urban watching the monitors.  I also liked the postcard things they used to show that we were switching locations.

The cast of this movie is probably the whole reason I went to see it in the first place.  There are so many big names and diverse actors in this thing that I just had to see how it worked out.  Well it worked out amazingly well and impressed me more when I saw who else was in this that was not top-billed.  Bruce Willis is one of the biggest action stars in the world, but he is aging a little by now, making him perfect for this movie.  He didn’t play it like a super-badass action hero, even while he was doing super-badass action things.  He played it more like a quiet, shy dude that was crushing on a girl he met on the phone … oh yeah, and also I’m a total badass.  I didn’t really know who Mary-Louise Parker was before going into this movie because most of her film credits are movies I would not be interested in, and also I never saw Weeds, but she could not have been cuter in this movie, both in looks and in personality.  She was totally fish out of water amongst the crowd Willis gets her involved with, but she had a lot of sass to her and I really dug her in this movie.  As much as I liked her, she had the misfortune of going up against John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs, and she could not compete with that character.  I don’t know that I had ever seen Malkovich do comedy before I saw this, but that dude was great.  He was so awesome and hilarious as the uber-paranoid Marvin.  He was crazy and paranoid so people rarely took what he said seriously, even though he turned out to be right more often than not.  He was the one throwing in the most jokes in the action situations, and if he wasn’t actually saying them, he was making me laugh by being downtrodden in the background holding a pink, stuffed pig.  Morgan Freeman was fairly underused in the movie, but was great in the parts he was in.  He was the one that had the part that bummed me out in the middle of the movie, but I got through it.  I don’t care how old Helen Mirren is, I think I would still throw down with her if she wanted.  Something about that lady is just sexy, especially if you have her shooting a 50-calibur machine gun wearing a white gown.  Karl Urban has played a badass before, but didn’t really go above that character to impress too much.  But I guess he was the bad guy for the most part, so you don’t want him to be too charming.

I dig RED a lot.  It’s not the smartest movie you can watch, and you won’t learn anything from it, but you will watch a stylishly-filmed movie with great performances, charming characters, funny dialogue, and over the top, fantastic action.  However I came to see this movie the first time is irrelevant.  I liked it enough to immediately purchase it on BluRay, and I feel comfortable saying you’ll have fun renting it.  SO DO IT!  RED gets “You guys want to get pancakes?” out of “I trained Kordeski.”

Hey, peeps. Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh? And tell your friends! Let’s make me famous!

Escape from New York (1981)

In lieu of any Netflix movies and with nothing good at RedBox, I decided to dip into my own library and start reviewing movies I already own.  The movie I watched today was the old action classic Escape from New York, starring Kurt Russell and Isaac Hayes.

Escape from New York is the story of Snake Plissken (Russell) who has been arrested in the distant future year of 1997.  The world has fallen into disrepair and crime has run so rampant that they’ve had to turn the entire island of Manhattan into a prison colony.  I’m sure we all remember this happening 14 years back, right?  My biggest problem is the same problem I have with about 90% of future movies: if you’re going to make a movie in the future, set that shit back a few years.  I understand that we can’t predict the future, but if you’re going to make a movie in the future, your motto should be “Set it to a year where, if this doesn’t turn out to be true, at least everyone involved with the movie will be dead”.  Take the cue from the original Planet of the Apes.  That movie, though granted started in 2006, the majority was set in 3978.  2010 years from when the movie was made!  No one could hold it against them for trying.  But this movie assumes that 14 years ago, the world has fallen very far.  I can only hope that in 4 years we’ll have hoverboards and flying cars so I have nothing to hold against Back to the Future 2.  Also, Spielberg better pick it up with the Jaws movies.  I think they were on Jaws 14 in that movie.  Also, in Escape from New York, the computer layouts are roughly what they were at from a quality standpoint in 1987.  This is supposed to be 20 + years in the future for you guys, and we know you have the technology to put moving images on a screen because how else would we be watching you guys underestimate technological advancements.  Throw some of that up there.  Heck, I literally watched your movie on my computer.  Just do that!

Anyways, Snake is arrested conveniently at the time that the President’s plane goes down in Manhattan (and survives, one can only assume it was Captain Sully in the cockpit).  He gets put on the task of rescuing him and some tape that’s handcuffed to his wrist within 24 hours or these explosive charges they put into his neck will blow and kill him.  Why is Plissken picked?  Why it’s ’cause he’s the baddest of the badass (which is much better than being the ass-est of the badass).  Snake used to be in a special military branch that trained people into badassdom; teaching them how to talk raspy and smoke thin cigars.  So Snake reluctantly agrees and goes in a souped up hang glider, lands on top of the World Trade Center (Never Forget), and gets to work.  It’s at this point that we see a dystopian, run down New York City, which is pretty much what I envision REAL New York City looking like.  While looking for the President, Snake meets Ernest Borgnine (who, if you’re like me, may know from Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders), who tells him the Duke of New York (None other than Chef himself, Isaac Hayes) has taken the President and intends to use him to get all the prisoners of Manhattan out of the city.  Also, he drives a car with chandeliers for headlights.

The first thing one must do when watching a movie from back then is to try to put yourself in the mindset of you back in the day it came out.  So I tried to watch it as if I were semen in my fathers balls.  At the time, I’m sure this was the best they could do, but there are things I just can’t get over.  First, the super-80s, Casio keyboard theme to the movie.  I’d rather you hit me with some Europe or Survivor.  After that, the fact that their Fischer Price Walkee Talkee’s with the super long telescoping antenna that can reach from Manhattan to the mainland.  Also, the tracking radar that was a Pong-style flashing light on a garage door opener.  There was also one point when Snake, now running from a bunch of crazy people they called … what was it again … Oh yes, the Crazies.  Anyway, he’s running from them, shoots a circle in the wall and bursts through it, I’m sure realizing shortly after he should’ve just run into it because it was Styrofoam.  I cannot allow this.  Mythbusters proved that was not possible.  And the last continuity problem?  At the end when driving across the mine-covered bridge, the car is sheered clean in half by a mine explosion and the only injury whatsoever was the person in the passenger seat was killed.  Good aim on that mine, right?

These problems notwithstanding, if you watch the movie from the mindset of the time (Which I clearly didn’t), the movie is pretty good.  I would say the idea of the movie far surpassed the actual writing of the movie, but it’s far from terrible.  The movie, as far as I know, is the start of plenty of plot devices that are overused by today’s standards.  The injection of explosive devices automatically reminded me of Mission Impossible 3 and the goofy face Keri Russell made when it went off in her brain.  The anarchic antihero, of course.  The genre blending of a Western-style movie with sci-fi setting.  Plenty of things in this movie helped define the action genre, and it should be applauded for that.  Heck, the critically dispised (but preferred by me) movie Escape from LA was practically the same movie.

So, if you choose to watch this movie, you would enjoy it more if you tried to keep the fact that it was made in 1981 in mind.  On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a “Better back then, but watchable today”.