Monday, 14 November 2016


“I love conspiracy theories. I used to just live on it. You know it’s all hype and garbage, but you’re still really paranoid afterwards. It’s fun entertainment.” - Doug Stanhope

We watched an amusing film at the weekend. Pure escapist nonsense, but we weren’t in the mood for anything else and this one seemed to be just the thing. On reflection, it wasn’t quite politically correct and it gave conflicting messages, but it was enough of a spoof to give it the ultimate thumbs up. However, one has to worry about subliminal messages delivered and how these are perceived by younger audiences…

It was the 2010 Robert Schwentke comedy/action movie “RED”, starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, Karl Urban, Rebecca Pidgeon, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss and Ernest Borgnine. Yes, the old familiar faces kept popping up throughout the movie. The screenplay was based on a graphic novel and one could detect the excesses of violence and action that these are replete with.

RED refers to “Retired, Extremely Dangerous” and this describes perfectly Francis, or Frank to his friends (Bruce Willis). He is a retired, bored, and lonely ex-CIA agent living off his government pension in an ordinary house in an ordinary suburb of an ordinary town. The only highlight in Frank’s life is his calls to the government pension processing centre when he gets to talk to his case worker, Sarah (Mary-Louis Parker). Sarah is as bored and lonely as Frank and marks her conversations with the unknown Frank and her spy novels as the only things fun in her life.

Suddenly out of the blue, Frank is attacked in his home by some armed CIA agents who obviously want him utterly dead. Frank’s old skills ensure he survives, but he goes to meet Sarah as he perceives she is also under threat. An initially reluctant Sarah is taken by Frank in tow as he tries to discover who wants them dead and why. Along the way, Frank’s ex-colleagues (Freeman, Malkovich, Mirren) join them and the intrigue is gradually uncovered. Along the way, the motley crew of REDs have to deal with CIA baddies Cooper (Urban) and Wilkes (Pidgeon) who are desperately trying to liquidate them.

The film is violent and there is a lot of use of weaponry of every description, meaning there are lots of bullets flying all the time, explosions, chases, bloody altercations, deaths and vaporisations. This action is quite extreme, to the extent that it resembles comic book violence although people are show to be injured and killed. Although there is presentation of a baddie as an illegal arms dealer, the use of lethal weaponry by the good guys is widespread as well. As I said this gave me a conflicting message and one has to question the film’s advocation of the use of weapons by “good guys” as a good thing. The whole USA gun-thing and the “right to bear arms” reared its ugly head, but we couldn’t be bothered to take issue with that.

The bottom line is, if the film is not taken seriously it is good entertainment value. The acting is good and the actors have fun with the excesses of the plot and the send-up of the whole action/spy/shoot-‘em-up genre. Willis has his tongue firmly wedged in his cheek as he plays a comedy part that sends up similar “serious” roles he played before, and Malkovich steals every scene he appears in, playing a mentally deranged conspiracy theorist who refuses to retire peacefully from the CIA. The direction is suitably light, but also tight and the action scenes are well staged and suspense does build up. There is a running joke with postcards from the places the REDs go to and the movie is almost like a road trip that wreaks havoc in every place they stop.

If you watch this film and expect Shakespeare, you’ll be disappointed. If you are on some high and mighty morality bandwagon you will abhor the movie, vilify the director, pour scorn on the actors and excommunicate the writers. If you are an intellectual and expect witticisms, subtle humour and delightful repartee, go watch a Shaw play. If you begin with low expectations, have an hour and a half to pass, take this film lightly and with a grain of salt, you’ll quite probably be entertained. It is a comic book tale for grown ups, requires no thinking and you’ll enjoy it as long as you suspend belief and engage in a forgiving move. Otherwise go watch an Ingmar Bergman film…

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