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Robert Schwentke
Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, Karl Urban, Rebecca Pidgeon, Jaqueline Fleming, Randy Wade Kelley, Jason Giuliano
Writing Credits:
Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber, Warren Ellis (graphic novel), Cully Hamner (graphic novel)

Still Armed. Still Dangerous. Still Got It.

Frank (Willis) is a former black-ops CIA agent living a quiet life alone ... until the day a hit squad shows up to kill him. With his identity compromised, Frank reassembles his old team Joe (Freeman), Marvin (Malkovich) and Victoria (Mirren) and sets out to prove that they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Stand back and watch the bullets fly in this explosive action-comedy that critics call "a rip-roaring good time".

Box Office:
$58 million.
Opening Weekend
$21.761 million on 3255 screens.
Domestic Gross
$89.842 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 1/25/2010

• Audio Commentary with Movie Consultant/Retired CIA Agent Robert Baer
• “Access: Red” Interactive Feature
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Red [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 19, 2011)

We’ve gotten plenty of spy-related action thrillers over the years, but 2010’s Red comes with a twist – an old twist, in a sense, as it concentrates on aging/retired characters. This may sound like a gimmick, but it becomes an interesting and integral part of the movie.

Retired CIA operative Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) lives a life so lonely that he pretends he doesn’t receive pension checks so he can flirt with Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), the phone operator. He tries to move this forward with a visit to her base in Kansas City and a nerve-wracking in-person meeting.

Before this occurs, however, Frank’s past comes back to haunt him. A team comes to kill him, but he manages to take care of them and escape. He heads to Kansas City to keep Sarah out of harm’s way; he assumes that the assassins will recognize a connection via their phone calls and come after her.

Rather than try to explain this seemingly farfetched story, Frank simply kidnaps Sarah and attempts to make her understand along the way. They hit the road so he can reassemble his old team of partners, find out what’s behind the intrigue, and stay alive.

As I alluded at the start, Red easily could’ve turned into nothing more than a high concept gimmick. Usually when a movie features old folks playing young folks’ games, they tell us that age doesn’t matter but show the elderly in ways that make them look foolish.

We don’t get that double standard in Red. It uses the characters’ ages for thematic resonance but not for laughs. Instead, we see the characters as strong and active. Sure, the movie accentuates the notion that age-based retirement may put some valuable people out to pasture too soon, but that’s not something portrayed in the semi-hypocritical manner to which I earlier alluded. These aren’t goofy oldsters who dare to think they can play ball with younger combatants; they’re awesome operatives who just happen to be a bit older than usual.

While I don’t think the movie’s success hinges on the twist, I can’t deny that the age-related theme gives us some jazz. Yes, the sight of so many 50-something and older characters kicking butt and taking names adds a fun factor that would be absent with younger participants.

But that’s not the movie’s primary appeal. Instead, it’s the simple caliber of the actors in place that brings a buzz to Red. We get a simply outstanding cast here, with three Oscar-winners via Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfuss as well as talents like Willis, Parker, John Malkovich and others. That’s a high-octane crew, and they bring an awful lot of heft to the experience.

Indeed, the actors likely add depth where little otherwise might exist. This is especially true for Parker, as she gets the movie’s most thankless role. Essentially Sarah exists as both plot device and deliverer of exposition.

On one hand, Sarah acts as a way to prompt a lot of action and to add danger. After all, we fear more for her safety than for those of the old pros; she’s the amateur more likely to get caught in the crossfire, and the movie uses her in the expected “damsel in distress” manner. Sarah also needs to ensure that we get a lot of the story and character exposition. She helps fill in the blanks that otherwise wouldn’t need to be explained from one veteran to another.

All of this makes for a character who could easily function as little more than a narrative device. However, Parker’s spunky performance ensures that Sarah adds a lot more to the movie than that. She enables the appropriate elements to come out, but she brings along a fun spark that transcends the character’s pedestrian roots.

The other actors also deliver fine turns in their roles. Few need to stretch, but they seem invested and enjoyable. In particular, Malkovich relishes his role as the gang’s nutbag. His Marvin is both kook and badass all at once, and Malkovich walks the line between those two sides in a delightful manner.

Director Robert Schwentke helps keep things together. The movie comes with a surprisingly coherent plot. Flicks like this often become bogged down in their twists, but matters remain reasonably tight here; we never feel lost or befuddled by narrative matters, and Schwentke ensures that the flick cranks along at a good pace.

But not a frenetic one, and that’s a pleasant surprise. Too many modern action movies confuse non-stop camera movement and editing for excitement. Red isn’t a static movie, but it doesn’t suffer from those annoying trappings. It feels lively but not exhausting.

All of which make it a blast. Red doesn’t always fire on all cylinders, but I’d be hard-pressed to point out any notable flaws. The movie delivers a fun little thrill ride.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B

Red appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though generally fine, I thought the image fell short of Blu-ray standards.

Sharpness was mostly good, as the majority of the movie exhibited nice clarity and definition. However, some soft elements intruded, and occasional shots could be a bit tentative. Still, the image usually seemed good. I noticed no issues with jaggies, shimmering or edge haloes, and source flaws were absent.

Colors seemed satisfying – and the movie went with a surprisingly natural palette. Oh, I noticed a little blue tint here and a little tan tint there, but the flick was usually fairly straight-ahead in terms of hues. They tended to be solid, without runniness or other issues. Blacks were more erratic, unfortunately; they were usually taut, but they sometimes looked a little pasty. Shadows were also a bit up and down, as the flick varied from smooth low-light shots to mildly murky ones. Overall, this was a “B-“ presentation.

On the other hand, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack lacked any notable flaws. As one expects from a big action flick, the soundfield opened up in a dynamic manner. The many action sequences used the five channels well, as vehicles, gunfire and other elements fleshed out the room in a compelling manner. The track used the surrounds in an involving way and made them active partners in the mix.

Audio quality always seemed strong. Speech came across as crisp and concise, without edginess or other concerns. Music sounded lively and full, and effects were well reproduced. Those elements seemed consistently accurate and dynamic; low-end was tight and deep. All in all, this was a more than satisfactory soundtrack.

A few extras fill out the disc. We find an audio commentary from movie consultant/retired CIA field officer Robert Baer. He offers a running, screen-specific chat that occasionally discusses aspects of the movie and his work on it. However, Baer usually concentrates on his life in the CIA.

And that’s the selling point, isn’t it? Early on, Baer tells us that the CIA requires operatives to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so it’s unclear how much he can’t legally tell us, but he offers quite a few good observations about life in the agency. The track occasionally sags, and it takes Baer a while to get into the process, but he manages to make this an intriguing discussion.

For elements more closely related to the film’s creation, we go to an interactive program called Access: Red. This runs alongside the movie itself and offers elements across six subdomains:

“Did You Know?”: Trivia tidbits about the film and connected topics.

“Damage Control”: Info about the movie’s mayhem, with an emphasis on the cost of repairs and punishments for infractions.

“Retired Hall of Fame”: Facts about former CIA agents.

“CIA Exposed”: Video clips with info about some of the CIA’s tawdrier activities.

“Cast Insights”: Interview material from producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura as well as actors Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Richard Dreyfuss, Rebecca Pidgeon, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Bruce Willis, Karl Urban, and Julian McMahon. They chat about cast and crew, locations and action scenes, characters and story, and costumes.

“Expert Intel”: Excerpts from Robert Baer’s audio commentary.

Though “Access” covers those six topics, don’t expect constant info on screen. Happily, it comes with the ability to skip ahead to the next tidbit, so you’re not stuck watching the entire movie; you can jump easily and don’t have to waste your time.

That’s a good bonus, as it makes “Access” much more enjoyable. The content itself is decent but not especially great. Still, they add a decent selection of insights about the movie and its real-life connections, so “Access” is reasonably productive.

10 Deleted and Extended Scenes occupy a total of eight minutes, 46 seconds. Most of these simply add a little to existing sequences, so they’re not especially memorable. I do like the piece in which Marvin gripes about being called old, and we also see a little more about Cooper’s home life; those snippets would’ve added a bit of depth to the flick’s climax. Most of the cut pieces are pretty superfluous, though; they’re too brief to make a positive or negative difference.

The disc opens with an ad for Fair Game. No trailer for Red appears here.

A delightful action flick with a “high concept” twist, Red is a winner. It comes with a fun story, an excellent cast and a general sense of excitement that make it a consistent pleasure. The Blu-ray provides acceptable picture, excellent audio and a few enjoyable supplements. I definitely recommend this high-quality shoot-em-up.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4615 Stars Number of Votes: 65
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