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Frank, Joe, Marvin, and Victoria used to be the CIA's top agents - but the secrets they know just made them the Agency's top targets. Now framed for assassination, they must use all of their collective cunning, experience and teamwork to stay one step ahead of their pursuers and stay alive. The team embarks on an impossible, cross-country mission to break into the top-secret CIA headquarters, where they will uncover one of the biggest conspiracies and cover-ups in government history. Old? My a!
For more about RED and the RED Blu-ray release, see RED Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 16, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban
Director: Robert Schwentke
» See full cast & crew
RED Blu-ray Review
They don't need no rockin' chair.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 16, 2011
Old man my ass!
Assassins. Paranoia. Mind control. Spry spies. Unlikely Loves. Political gamesmanship. Big government. Deadly secrets. Retirement homes. These are just some of the ingredients all mashed together in Director Robert Schwentke's (Flightplan) Red, a D.C. Comics-based Action/Comedy hybrid that somehow manages to precisely measure its smorgasbord of ingredients and bake them into a delicious singular entity that's as action-packed as it is humor-laced. Though it might secure most of its laughs from images of Helen Mirren raining down the lead as she mans a heavy machine gun or from John Malkovivh, conspiracy theorist, running around with a pink teddy bear and wearing a gillie suit, Red finds an honest balance between the excesses of its two extremes, even if the action is made to resemble an over-the-top spectacle and the laughs are tasteful but sometimes tacky pokes at old age. Ultimately, Red is a movie that just wants to have fun, and even despite some shortcomings, there's an unmistakable electricity running through its celluloid veins that allows it -- and its audience -- to have loads.
Frank Moses (Bruce Willis, Unbreakable) is a retired CIA analyst who spends his days figuring out excuses to call the lovely voice he's fallen for on the other end of the phone, a woman named Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker, Solitary Man) who works for a federal pension office in the midwest. Frank manages to make a date with Ross, but before he can set out to Kansas City to meet her, he's attacked in his home by heavily-armed government agents. The talented Moses still has it, and despite his age he gets the best of younger and better-armed men. He flies to Kansas City to protect Sarah, whom he believes might also be a target considering that his telephone chats with her were sure to have been monitored. Frank has no choice but to piece together who wants him dead and why; that leads him to check in with his old mentor, Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman, Deep Impact), currently living it up in a New Orleans rest home. Matheson tells them the story of a missing reporter and a hidden government hit list; the need for more answers lead Moses and Ross to meet with a paranoid conspiracy theorist named Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich, In the Line of Fire) and a former assassin named Victoria (Helen Mirren, The Queen) to strengthen their numbers and further their understanding of a vast conspiracy that leads to the highest echelons of American political power. Meanwhile, CIA tough man William Cooper (Karl Urban, And Soon the Darkness) is assigned the unenviable task of bringing Moses down.
There are two critical elements that make Red a success: its lighthearted nature and its cast. As for the former, Red is a movie built on a deliciously unique premise -- yes, yes, the old spy angle is in full swing here and no, no, that's not the point -- that sees aged superheroes of the real kind get back in the game for another chance at glory, even if duty to country and self-preservation from thousands of rounds of ammunition was only days ago, for these characters, not even on their radar screens or as important as wooing that lovely voice over the phone, checking out the rear end of the pretty little nurses at the senior care center, evading real and imagined black helicopters, or clipping roses. Red is sort of like the answer to "how long can Die Hard go? When will Die Hard in a Wheelchair come out? The characters may not be quite that old -- even the 70-some-year-old Morgan Freeman (whose character is said to be in his 80s here) still gets around better than most -- but it's the idea of seeing these old timers back in the game for another go-round of action that makes Red so great. No matter that the audience has no history with these characters; the script builds them up nicely, and it's easy to see them in their younger, well, Glory days before lounging around in pajamas and watching TV was their raison d'Ítre. The plot really doesn't matter, either; what matters is plopping a handful of geriatrics into the middle of some fantastically-staged action that's as loud and entertaining as most anything out there and watching them go to work, shooting and running and smooth-talking their way through one sticky situation after another like they were some physically ageless group of "00s."
And then there's the cast that sells this thing. Names like Willis, Freeman, Malkovich, Mirren, Parker, Urban, and shoot, even Borgnine and Dreyfuss might sound more like an AARP meeting than a 2010 Action movie, but darn it all, they pull it off incredibly well. Ernest Borgnine lights up the screen in his limited role -- as he always does -- and Helen Mirren makes retirement sexy, and it doesn't hurt, either, when she's strutting her stuff from behind some serious weaponry. Willis, Freeman, Malkovich, Mirren, and Parker all manage to believably come together like they've been chemically bonded, and it's again a credit to both their understanding of the film's necessarily light overall tone and the strength of the script to so fully develop them that the audience can't help but feel they know four former and now, again, current compatriots inside and out. Even Willis and Parker manage plenty of sparks and form a believable romance that starts out excitedly tepid, turns south, and heats up as Parker's character becomes turned on by her man, the travel, and the adrenaline rush of finding herself in the middle of the more action that she could have ever imagined back in Agrestic. Karl Urban turns in a solid effort as the film's approachable and not at all loathsome "bad guy," and Richard Dreyfuss earns the award for the film's sneaky-good effort in a small-in-screen-time but critical-to-the- plot part.
Red isn't perfect, though; the picture tends to drag in places, and what the film gains in extra character and plot development, it loses in sheer pace. It takes a good hour for all of the primaries to be introduced and even longer for the storyline to come into focus, but it seems like Director Robert Schwentke wants to -- smartly -- keep the audience as much in the dark as his characters, allowing the story to unfold in due course and as the characters, not a transparent script or generic themes, set the tone and figure out who's who and what's what. Nevertheless, for all the good the added material does, Red just doesn't maintain its stamina for the duration; a slow middle act is the main culprit, but said slowdown is certainly not a death sentence. Red is a polished, well-made film otherwise, one that's big on ensuring there's equal parts visual eye candy, thought-provoking story elements, and laughs. Red manages to walk the tightrope between comedy and action perfectly; it certainly favors the latter more than the former, unlike some of the more well-known Action/Comedy movies of yore like Armed and Dangerous, for instance. Red seems to know exactly what it is and what its audience wants; it's a complete movie that's not going to win any Oscars, but it's a heck of a fun little movie, and fun is Red's middle name.
RED Blu-ray, Video Quality
Red looks great in Blu. Summit's 1080p Blu-ray transfer offers a practically flawless presentation that's as sharp, bright, and filmic as most any other high definition presentation to date. The image even delivers a good sense of depth for a 2D presentation, notable throughout but particularly evident during several interior library shots in chapter five. Detail is fantastic; lines, creases, wrinkles, and pores in faces are revealed to an extent that probably doesn't make the actors or their makeup artists very happy. Clothing textures -- check out the amazing intricacy visible on the regal garb Matheson wears in chapter eleven -- are beyond reproach, and the transfer also handles pavement, brickwork, and other general elements superbly well. Colors are fantastic and well balanced, appearing vibrant but never too warm or unnatural. Whether the bright orange of various fireballs or the many vibrant shades around New Orleans and Chinatown exteriors, the film's entire palette sparkles. Black levels are wonderfully rich and accurate, but flesh tones can veer towards a slightly orange tinge. A few soft shots creep into the frame and the occasional face appears slightly pasty, but otherwise, the transfer is perfect. A fine layer of film grain rounds out a wonderful Blu-ray transfer from Summit.
RED Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Red's lossless soundtrack manages to outclass even its superb 1080p transfer. This is a reference-grade track from beginning to end and from top to bottom. Listeners will be thrilled with the way the track handles the slightest and most subtle sound effects and nuances -- such as the thud thud thud of Moses's punches landing on a hanging bag or even the constant tick tick tick of a clock that sets a mood and sounds startlingly real in chapter 10. Dialogue is perfectly centered and crisp, never having to compete with any of the film's many sound effects. Music is robust and smooth as it pours from the front with a fair bit of surround support, every note enjoying top-notch clarity whether crisp highs or deep lows. Of course, Red's standout sonic elements stem from the film's many and robust action pieces. The assault on Moses's house early in the film should become a go-to reference moment for audio gear dealers around the world; gunfire rips through the listening area with deadly precision, the shots seeming to emanate from all over the soundstage. The rat-a-tat is frighteningly accurate, and the power of each shot is a constant reminder of the deadly strength of each round. Explosions pack an insane amount of power that never goes overboard; bass is tight and aggressive but not at all sloppy or undefined. Additional action sound effects prove the track's worth throughout; police sirens tear through the listening area from several sides and converge into the middle of the stage for one shot, making for a great example of the track's ability to deliver pinpoint imaging. Summit's lossless soundtrack for Red is fantastic; the film deserves nothing less!
RED Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
What Red's supplemental section lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. The highlight is a wonderfully-integrated PiP track that offers plenty of information in several formats.
RED Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Red is all about fun. The movie wears that three-letter descriptor on its sleeve throughout, and they just don't get any less pretentious than this. Red earns high points not only for its honesty, but also for its ability to find that perfect balance between action and humor and, more importantly, ensure that its well-seasoned cast plays perfectly into the freshly-minted action scenes to make them as spectacular as they need to be. Red is a big movie thanks not only to one of the best ensemble casts ever -- that's right, ever -- but to the way it never takes its heart out of that perfectly little right place that makes the movie light as a feather and as powerful as a rocket launcher. Movies just don't get any more fun than this. Summit Entertainment might not release all that many titles, but the studio certainly has this Blu-ray thing down pat. A great movie is supported by a nearly flawless technical presentation and a nice little array of extra goodies that might be small in quantity but are high in quality. Highly recommended.
RED: Other Editions
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