If you’ve read the original limited series comic book “Red” by Warren Ellis, then you probably know that there’s nothing really funny about it. It’s a very politically-driven comic (American foreign policy bad!) with some balls-to-the-wall action scenes and a bodycount that would make John McClane blush. Ironically, John McClane himself will be playing the film version’s hero, Frank Moses, a retired CIA killer who somehow gets on his old agency’s hit list, and he has to figure out why. According to the film’s producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, “Red” the movie is an action-comedy with lots of laughs. That … wasn’t what I was expecting.
“Red” definitely has a killer cast: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Helen Mirren, Julian McMahon, Brian Cox, and Richard Dreyfuss. Shit, you could take a knife to a cast like that and come up with two or three excellently cast movies. But the whole PG-13 (Bonaventura calls it a “hard PG-13”, whatever that means) and the whole action-comedy element is surprising.
Here’s what Bonaventura told Collider:
“A lot of comedy. It’s really funny. I mean, it’s an action…I guess if I had to be pinned down I’d say it’s an action/comedy as a movie—as a genre.”
There’s nothing wrong with an action-comedy. “True Lies”, for instance, which pops up in the article, is also an action-comedy. Or, actually, it was more an action movie with James Cameron trying to write comedy, and for the most part failing miserably. There are some very awkward stabs at comedy in “True Lies” that are just groaners, though admittedly there are one or two gags he did manage to pull off.
The problem is, once there are yuk-yuks to be had, you’ve basically informed the audience not to expect anything gritty or too life-threatening for your hero. I just never envisioned Frank Moses to be playing things for laughs in the movie, but then again, the original comics were pretty damn grim, so maybe a funny version of “Red” is just what the doctor ordered. In any case, the film sounds a lot more like “The A-Team” and “The Losers” now, with Willis, John Malkovich, and Mary-Louise Parker running from CIA hit goons.