I was fully prepared to start talking about how much Helen Mirren kicked butt in Red 2. I had even thought of a few good one liners about Martha Stewart and sniper rifles, maybe a reference to how prison had been good for her, but as soon as I sat down in the theatre the focus on her was replaced. Now don’t get me wrong, Ms. Mirren is still a rock star in my mind but she was upstaged by some of her fellow performers.
I assume most people know about the premise of Red but, just in case, here is the general idea. Red is an acronym standing for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. It is about the adventures of a group of older super spies who are having a hard time being put out to pasture and keep getting pulled back into active duty for one reason or another. In the first movie one of the spies, Frank played by Bruce Willis, falls for Mary-Louise Parker’s Sarah. Now in the second installment the main thrust of the story is centered around him trying to come to terms with her wanting to take part in his adventures. They are dragged back into the secret agent gig with and admitedly silly and contrived story, but that is hardly the point. I didn’t come here for plausible stories, I am here for explosions, fist fights and great one liners.
Enter my favourite parts of this move and the people who upstaged the great Dame Mirren, John Malkovich and Byung-hun Lee. Both stole most of the scenes they were in. I have been a Malkovich fan for a while so that didn’t really surprise me but Byung-hun Lee was quite a discovery. Those moves, the comedic timing and a body like a Greek god. I have no idea how I have missed this man. I vaguely remember watching The Good, the Bad, the Weird but I guess he didn’t make that big of an impression on me. Boy did he ever this time. I can honestly say that his interaction with Bruce Willis was the part that had me laughing the hardest. Malkovich was classic quirky lovably odd Malkovich and was his usual blast to watch. The rest of the cast was at least strong enough to hold their own and not hold the funny back.
If I have anything critical to say it is that I felt the character played by Anthony Hopkins wasn’t defined enough. I was ok with him when I thought he was just nuts but then they started hinting at a deeper past. The problem is they never told us what his motivations were. Without giving too much away they had to either leave him at crazy or tell us why he is the way he is. You can’t leave it half way between the two. That is just frustrating.
In the end though I have not laughed that hard during any other move this summer so in my mind this one is a winner. Go turn off your brain for a couple of hours and have fun laughing and cheering on old spies.
As an aside, did you know that this movie was made by DC Entertainment? It is based on a comic series! How awesome is that? Was I really the only one who didn’t know that?
I went to see Pacific Rim the other night. I was happy to pay for the new super ticket and I was happy to see it in all of it’s Imax 3D glory. I went in feeling excited about the epic spectacle about to unfold. My initial reaction was pure gut driven glee. This movie is a visual treat. The kind of well crafted eye candy that has only really been possible in the modern effects driven world. I love the movie on first instinct but on the way home something started to nag at me. I am going to do my best to express why, but beware of mild spoilers.
I don’t want to sound like I didn’t like the movie, I did. No one can paint a digital picture like Guillermo del Toro. He is a modern master of visual story telling. Everything we once thought George Lucas was going to be. This movie is no exception to his usual picturesque brilliance. Every kid who imagined living in the world of Voltron or Godzilla, anyone who has ever watched a Ray Harryhausen movie and wondered what it would really be like to experience a monster in real life, will come away with an answer. The world is believable and the premise well crafted. All of the internal logic works and it looks gorgeous doing it.
So why do i have an irritating little feeling that it wasn’t what it could have been?
The more distance I get the more I think I know the answer, and I suspect it was intentional. I felt like all of the characters were one dimensional. They felt like genre archetypes. Movie Bob expressed it better then I could over at Escape to the Movies. In a nut shell, and apologies to Mr Chipman if I got it wrong, he suggests that the movie was deliberately trying to have every character feel like they walked out of the material that inspired them. Every person in the story was just what you thought they should be. It was an Anime come to life, but without the depth of character that you get in a long running series. This is fine in theory but you need some very good actors to pull it off.
The supporting cast is not the problem here. I adored the mad scientists (Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) and Ron Perlman proves once again why he is a walking cult classic. I was even fully invested in Idris Elba, who is doing his darnedest to become a top tier talent. He is the closest to accomplishing both an obvious homage to the source material and a full person in his own right. The rest of the cast fell short in my opinion.
The leading man and lady were almost place holders. They felt generic. Replaceable. Utterly bland and photo copied. I spent most of the movie waiting to feel anything about them. The closest I came was the memory scene with the junior version of Mako Mori but that is due to the talent of the little girl. I honestly believed they were terrorizing that child and I felt a strong urge to protect her. The minute we went back to “modern day” I lost any real connection to the character.
The movie held me with the eye candy and all to small moments of great stage presence but I am not sure it will be one I will want to re-watch again and again. In the end it was a movie I suspect I will describe it in the future as “Beautiful, breath taking and deep as a puddle”.