RED (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language.
Length: 111 minutes
Grade: ACCB=A
Budget: $58 million
Box Office: $208 million (90 U.S., 95 Intl., 23 DVD)

Written by: Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber (Whoiteout, Montana), based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis & Cully Hamner
Directed by: Robert Schwentke (Time Traveler’s Wife and Flightplan)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren.
With: Rebecca Pidgeon, Karl Urban, Richard Dreyfus, Brian Cox, and Ernest Borgnine.

A retired group of ultra-dangerous CIA assassins is forced to return to the action when someone seems bent on trying to kill everyone involved in a classified past operation.

Entertainment Value: A+
I don’t know for sure whether it was the recent experience of the awful Expendables and disappointments with Salt, Jonah Hex, Machete, and Wild Target, but I was ready for a really good action movie. This was that PLUS a tremendous variety of devices (fascinating characters, witty dialogue, postcards to show places, unusually cool camera angles, and the superb acting by especially Mary-Louise Parker) make this a really good time. And the plot, oh the plot, is phenomenal! Knight and Day is the closest recent offering, and where that was very good, this was outstanding.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity A, Violence C, Language C
The drugs are used to abduct someone and LSD is referenced. There’s no sex stuff at all other than one very oblique conversation. Language is PG-13 and violence is surely the other major concern, including lots and lots of gunplay, killings, and blood hand-to-hand combat.

Significant Content: C
There are good guys and there are bad guys, and the difference isn’t whether you kill people. It’s whether you fight for justice and truth and whether you’re capable of love and loyalty. And, of course, the bad guys and the good guys often aren’t what they originally seem. People who like excitement in fiction may not love the real thing, and those who know the real thing may crave the simple life (even if they find it unfulfilling by contrast).

Artistic/Thought Value: B
Not really a thinker, but certainly high marks for art value, especially shotmaking and bringing out the best the genre has to offer.

Discussion Questions:
~Why does Sarah enjoy reading pulp fiction spy novels? Why does she at first react so negatively to being caught up in one? What brings her around, and what does this say about such people? What does it say about us? Is it likely that people who like action movies and their vicarious thrills would actually enjoy being in such a situation?
~Several characters in this movie seem to miss the action, either secretly continuing to take jobs or just missing the old game. What do you think of this? Does it bother you to imagine that some people might really enjoy fighting epic international battles against each other?
~How has the change of international relations since the end of the cold war affected both movie villains and real life enemies?
~“They just don’t make spies like they used to.” Is it fair to also say they don’t make spy movies like they used to?
~In this movie, what things differentiate heroes from villains?
~Why is the theme of apparent villains being wrongly accused and trying to clear their names/reestablish justice so appealing? What does this theme’s appeal tell us about human nature and the universe?
~How might our love of the amazingly capable hero who rights all wrongs be a variation on our desire to see an omnipotent God come back and fix the universe? What’s the difference between destroying the enemy in action movies and redeeming them in the Bible?
~It bothers me tremendously when objectively great movies (like Red) do significantly worse at the box office than objectively awful movies (like Expendables). Does this bother you, and it is a healthy reaction?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~Being John Malkovich
~The conversation in the Russian embassy.
~Frank with Cooper’s family.
~Taking on the Vice-President.

Overall Grade: A
Original. Unpredictable. Funny. Well-written and acted. A genuinely outstanding action, spy, assassin, conspiracy movie.

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