Marvin Boggs: Why are you trying to kill me?
Frank Moses: Like why would I be trying to kill you?
Marvin Boggs: Because last time we met I tried to kill you.
Frank Moses: That was a long time ago.
Marvin Boggs: Some people hold on to things like that.
At a glance:
Bruce Willis recreates his standard action hero role, this time as a ‘retired’ CIA agent pulled back in by a major US conspiracy, in this lighthearted and fun, but ultimately hollow, action film
Our review (with spoilers):
Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA agent, survives an attempted assassination, pulling him back into the action. He drags along old buddies Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren (yes, as a machine-gun-wielding assassin) and Brian Cox. Also dragged into harm’s way is Frank’s new girlfriend, Sarah (Mary Louise Parker). They face a CIA gone rogue, led by a talented, dedicated agent Cooper (Karl Urban). Let’s face it: Willis has been playing slight variations on this same role for more than a decade. With his bald top and chiseled face, he hardly seems to have aged. He’s good at this one character, so as long as you only have to see him play it every couple of years – and the script, thank goodness, doesn’t take itself or him too seriously – he’s a pleasure to watch. But the film is made to capitalize on genre combined with star quality – there is no strong underlying message, so it is a hollow film.
And there are, of course, those stock tricks used that we’ve seen before and will seen again. For example: Joe (Morgan Freeman) is approached by an assassin. In the next scene, Moses is talking by phone to someone at the home and we see Freeman’s nurse in tears. Moses’ face seems to show sorrow (well, as much sorrow as Willis’ face is able to emote, anyway). Later, we find out that Joe turned the tables and killed the assassin, and, I assume, disappeared. Why was his nurse crying, then?
Later, we see a very brief scene of Cooper at his home, checking on his sleeping children and wife. We know that the purpose of this scene is to establish that Cooper cares about his family and that means they will be placed in danger later, probably by Moses. Bingo! Finally, Victoria (Mirren) is blasting the vice president using a machine gun on a tripod. Cooper sneaks up from the other side. We see the machine gun must be still firing, because bursts of light are coming from where it is obscured by a parked car. Immediately, veteran movie watchers know this means when Cooper comes around to the other side of the car, the machine gun will be automatically firing in unmanned mode and Victoria will be long gone. Bingo!
Watching John Malkovich, one of my favorite actors who is capable of so much more - play such a broad caricature of a drugged-addled conspiracy nut is a little painful at times. Helen Mirren with a machine gun is almost as wild as the machine-gun-wielding height-challenged woman standing on the bar wearing negligee in Total Recall.
Rating: 2.5 of 4
Other reviewers said:
"The winking, self-reflexive tone mutes any possible emotional investment."
- Robert Levin (Film School Rejects)