Red 2: a Retired, Extremely Dangerous (RED) agent Frank Moses is back on the radar when an APB goes out to every contract killer in the world, with a tasty bounty on his head. First off, although he’s in a restrictive role (and – skeptically – probably only to sell tickets in Asia) I like the gamble of casting a Korean megastar that is relatively unknown in the West. Even delivering phonetic/over-dubbed lines Lee Byung-Hun steals his scenes, and raises the action bar – peaking in the impressive and innovative fridge-door fight in Moscow. It’s also as funny as RED was, but every single laugh is John Malkovich – “If there’s one thing I know, it’s women and covert operations”. Hopkins is entertaining, Louise-Parker & Zeta-Jones are both hyphenated surnames, and dame Mirren also enjoyable company. The setup is rrrrrather contemporary for a comic – a’la WikiLeaks, but the overall story (and film) don’t flow particularly well as they’re determined to have a James Bond style travelogue element – popping up here, there, and everywhere for no real reason: London, Moscow, Paris, America… despite this, it’s hard not to switch off by the end as the required ‘twisty-turny’ but overall a fairly predictable story arc plays out – what’s wrong with goodies being good and baddies staying bad?!?!? Basically, Bruce Willis doing a dialed-in ‘wise guy’ with diluted attitude, surrounded by people you’d rather be watching – all reminding you of that film ‘Paycheck’, but for the wrong reasons. Less Die Hard, more Die Soft and wrinkly.
“Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”
Die Hard: European terrorists hold up a skyscraper and are issuing a lot of bogus demands; unbeknownst to them, NYPD’s biggest badass is crawling around in the air-ducts. John McClane is undoubtedly one of cinema’s greatest action heroes – the cheeky chap with so many timeless quips that have been ingrained into the general consciousness. For some reason, against all of the cut/paste Communist/Russian terrorists in 1980s movies the fact that the Die Hard baddies are German feels inspired. The film contains everything that was great about that era’s action films – right down to the male toplessness, black/white cooperation, violence, and a boss-fight within a perilous industrial setting. Most interestingly, although you couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the lead roles, this was both Willis’ and Rickman’s first big movies – and McClane had previously been offered to Arnie, Sly, Ford, Gere, Reynolds, Eastwood – so the casting director is an absolute hero. Decades later, this is still one of the best examples of a timeless action movie; and the re-watchability factor alone makes this an instant classic. Not just the best Christmas movie ever, but one of the best movies ever. If you don’t like this, I don’t like you!
Looper: when time-travel is invented the mafia use it to send people back in time to be killed by hitmen called ‘Loopers’. The first 30 minutes of Looper is a stunning, high-concept, fast-paced, interesting sci-fi/physics thriller; last 15 minutes is an action-packed, satisfying finale; the problem lies in the middle hour, which is a bog-standard – stretched-out – farmyard drama, where any notion of sci-fi takes a back seat. The future is sensibly crafted, rooted in today’s world but with more decay/poverty – the setting, technology and small details are great at fleshing out the era. Not unlike Brick, there’s a bit of a retro/Noir vibe running through the props, locations, names etc. JGL absolutely steals the show, not only with a solid performance, but by convincingly echoing the mannerisms of a young Bruce Willis – even if the make-up looked way more like Buster Keaton. For a while, I thought that Looper was going to out-do Primer, but it went off-track for far too long. There’s no arguing that there’s a great concept at the heart of the movie, however it feels like the balance between sci-fi and drama had been made less even in order to widen the film’s appeal. Would have been an unbeatable 80/90-minute hard sci-fi film, but at 2 hours it feels unnecessarily long.
The Expendables 2: when they’re ambushed during a simple job the team have to avenge a fallen comrade… and shoot the crap out of anything that gets in their way. First off, the costume department deserve a medal; these guys are going in to action with cardigans, wooly jumpers, trench coats, French berets, designer jeans, cashmere scarves – they’re the most metrosexual mercenaries on the planet! The action is a whole other level of ace… blood, guts, explosions, limbs flying, heads exploding, bullet-riddled bodies dropping everywhere – only downside is that everything from the weapons to entire set pieces feel like copy/paste jobs from recent Call of Duty games. The majority of the runtime is like eating a cheese sandwich, made with cheesy bread whilst drinking mozzarella brine, but in a totally knowing, tongue in cheek fashion – like Willis and Arnie mocking each others characters and catchphrases. Lundgren should be singled out as a great sport, being the butt of almost every scene & joke. My only
real petty concern is that there’s only one big/famous baddie – and considering some of the iconic action villains over the years, it’s the only thing they could really have done with upping. Having a real director makes such a big difference – everything is improved, although the comic timing is so far out that it’s embarrassing to watch (but does help add to the cheese-effect). The Expendables is essentially the male equivalent of Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve – an ensemble of big names that puts an entire demographic’s bums on seats, and where everything else is secondary. In saying that, there’s still something inherently satisfying and watchable about seeing Willis / Arnie / Norris and co firing big guns at things. Expendables 2 is a highly enjoyable Action/Comedy romp – it’ll be difficult to top.
- Why are we here again? - I need a new house...
The Cold Light of Day: when his family are kidnapped near Madrid an everyman has to find a briefcase and return it to the captors in time. This is a strange one: coming out of the cinema it felt like a serviceable ‘nuts and bolts’ action movie, however, two days later the only parts i can recall are the Nike, Blackberry, Coca Cola, Audi, Land Rover, Fabrik Nightclub co-promotion scenes. There’s a couple of night-time action scenes that were too shaky and poorly lit to be even remotely coherent – although there are a few interesting flares of camerawork, and it fades in and out of attempting to have the atmosphere and music of a classic Boir thriller – it’s just not consistent enough. The story is quite derivative, sloppy, and predictable genre writing – and everything down to the title feels focus-grouped to death. God bless Cavill for trying, but there’s next to nothing for anyone to work with – all characters are like concentrated stock. The Cold Light of Day is one of the laziest films I’ve seen in a long time; it just wants to coast on the back of the names involved – although the biggest (Sigourney and Bruce Willis) phone in two of the sleepiest and offendingly unremarkable paycheck performances of the year.
RED: (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) A retired Black Ops soldier is targeted by a hit team, so he calls a favour on his old-time buddies to get to the bottom of it all. I guess the best thing about this newfangled trend of adapting the shit out of every comic ever made is that – on the whole – the source material is usually good, and abundant. Because of this, RED is watchable enough as the story predictably lurches forward, however the way it’s all presented on the big screen is nothing new – peppered with gratuitous fights, action and explosions. They must have known the story was ten-a-penny before they pulled in such a heavy-hitting cast: Malkovich steals every scene with his familiar oddball routine, and the only other person that turns in something good is the determined agent Karl Urban. Everyone else, including Bruce Willis, is on cruise control, and despite being OK, everyone seems more interested in making a quick buck than doing anything noteworthy. There’s a couple of ‘hostage humour’ laughs as Willis tries to win over a girl that looks half his age, and the overall script is decent. Between the massive cast and unusually low certificate for an ation/spy flick (all violence and most swear words are edited out or covered up) this is clearly all about getting as many bums on as many seats as possible. RED nowhere near as good as the sum of its parts – and ends up being nothing more than a Bourne/Salt/A-Team re-hash, with marginally more interesting than average geriatric characters.