Red

[Screenshot]I knew, based on the reports on Warren Ellis’s blog, and by a quick look at the trailer, that this film would not be entirely faithful to the themes of the original comic. But I figured I wanted to see it anyways. If Warren Ellis was OK with it, I figured it wasn’t my place to say otherwise, and the reasons why it couldn’t be faithful were fundamentally sound: the original work was, among other things, far too short to actually make a satisfactory feature-length film.

But I’m afraid “Not entirely faithful” is a bit of an understatement. Taken on its own merits, it’s a fun comic action-caper flick, with wisecracking, quirky, supercompetent secret agents sticking it to the man and executing elaborate, complicated plans; which is one of the most extraordinary subversions of themes in the original work I’ve seen since Mankiewicz’s adaptation of The Quiet American. The comic had a fair amount of exposition and philosophizing about monstrosity and loyalty and responsibility which is notably absent, either in dialogue or plot, from the film. In this movie, Moses and Co. are just Big Damn Heroes, going out and doing what is right, for justice. Which is enjoyable in a brainless kind of way, but it wasn’t really what I expected to see at all.

Cinematically, it’s quite excellent. There was something quite naturalistic about the camera style during non-action sequences: long takes, with smooth and organic-feeling pans and dollies that manage not to seem self-indulgent. The action sequences are, by their very nature, self-indulgent, with a lot of flash and occasional slo-mo and suchlike. It manages to stay mostly on the tasteful side of cheap (unlike, say, Transformers, which was full of wholly unnecessary whoosh and bewildering camera-shake). The actors play the parts they’ve been given well: Malkovitch chews the scenery but believably and Mirrin delivers a delightfully prim ruthlessness so well that they actually upstage Bruce Willis, whose character comes across as pretty colorless and dull by comparison.

On balance, I enjoyed the time I spent watching Red pretty well, although I might feel disappointed if I’d gone to see it in a theater. Mostly my lack of enthusiasm derives from it being pretty far afield of what I expected. A writer with a characteristic style can make a good story, but take away all those signature flourishes and thematic elements and you have, as it were, a tale told by an idiot.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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