Sunday, February 6, 2011


I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have never read the actual comic this film was based on, despite being a huge comics nerd and a huge Warren Ellis fan. Still, I suppose it’s for the best, as I understand quite a lot was changed around, so it would have likely just led to me spending the whole movie annoyed at how different it was from the source material. However, given how what we wound up with was a piece of pleasant fluff that I’ll likely have difficulty remembering anything about in three months, maybe someone should indeed have been harping on writers Jon and Erich Hoebler or director Robert Schwentke to keep it closer than it wound up being.

Anyway, the film stars Bruce Willis as Frank Moses, a retired CIA operative (the film’s title comes from his designation: Retired, Extremely Dangerous) who has been targeted for assassination for one of his past jobs. He goes on the run, making sure to kidnap Mary-Louise Parker first (they’ve grown very close over the phone, and he doesn’t want his enemies kidnapping her to use against him), and starts to enlist a group of old friends to help figure out who’s got it in for him and how to stop them. Cue the run-ins by Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren as his old squad that likely doesn’t have a single original hip between them.

It’s a pretty fun, though curiously relaxed film. For a story where one mistake could easily kill the entire cast, everyone seems more interested in just light-heartedly bantering with each other, and showing off how they’re still cool even if they’re old. Even with everything that happens (and with Morgan Freeman not caring what happens because he has Stage IV cancer anyway), they’re just breezing through it all like nothing actually matters here. It couldn’t get any more whimsical if Gene Kelly started dancing partway through.

It’s a curious decision, and while it does make the movie moderately fun to watch, almost like a throwback to an 80s buddy cop movie, it also leaves us with no real suspense, nor does it allow the actors any kind of range. Malkovich spends the entire movie acting crazy, and Parker spends a little time looking frightened and panicked before joining the rest in casual smugness, but that’s about it. It’s almost a waste to have so many great actors in this film, as they’re all forced to turn in very one-note performances in a one-note film.

Schwentke does give us a very smooth and polished effort here, don’t get me wrong. Schwentke previously gave us Flightplan, which was a terrific thriller as long as you made sure not to even try to think about the plot once it was done. I’ve not seen The Time Traveler’s Wife, but based on the two I have seen it seems that his main area of expertise so far is to create very slick, fairly enjoyable action films that can’t quite go the distance. If you happen to catch this on TV sometime, it’s a perfectly fun way to kill an hour and a half, but I could name a whole lot of other action movies out there that do a better job than this. Hell, just in the range of action movies based on Vertigo comic books in which government gunmen are turned on by said government and have to hunt down the man who’s trying to kill them and which was released in theaters last year, we have The Losers, which had the benefit of being more fun, more exciting, and somewhat more dramatic. You should probably go watch that instead of this.

Rating: ** ½

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