In a recent Bruce Willis interview, Zach Galifanakis asked, "Did you know that some actors turn down roles?" The implication is obvious that Bruce Willis commits to doing anything that comes along, but does Galifanakis' tongue-in-cheek assertion holds any weight?
In the case of the Red, the new spy thriller starring Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich, yes. Yes it does.
Willis cut a name for himself with roles in action movies like Die Hard and cult classics like The Fifth Element and Pulp Fiction. He has also strayed a little with his roles in The Whole Nine Yards, its sequel The Whole Ten Yards and the mediocre Surrogates. So where does his latest film stack up?
The thriller focuses around Willis' character Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent who is subject to an attack by a "wet team" at his peaceful suburban abode. Moses easily dispatches the squad and races to save his love interest, Sarah Ross (Mary Louise-Parker), all the while trying to figure out why his retirement has been violently interrupted.
Along the way, Willis rounds up some of his old cronies. He starts with a former agency contact Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), now living in a nursing home, and then recruits the paranoid eccentric Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) while finally seeking the help of the lethal Victoria (Helen Mirren).
The film has all the usual flair associated with a big-budget spy movie. There are car-chases, gunfights and hand-to-hand combat. The film is well shot and well paced, the soundtrack is appropriate and all the actors do at least a serviceable job.
The problem with the film lies in the tone. The star-studded cast is too self-aware to let the movie become just another spy flick, but at the same time, only Malkovich manages to pull-off a truly remarkable performance with his out-there depiction of Boggs. Unfortunately it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the movie. The film occupies a purgatory between being a full-out satire and a stereotypical spy film, and it leaves the final product lacking.
The story is also pretty mediocre -- spy is wronged, spy needs to figure out why, spy relentlessly kicks ass.
The film's not bad, but it's really not good either. It's just such a waste to get this star-studded crew of actors together on a project and not have something significant come out of it.