October 15, 2010, - 5:51 pm

Weekend Box Office: “RED,” “Heartbreaker”

By Debbie Schlussel

The new releases I reviewed, this week, are pretty decent:

*  “RED“:  This was cute, funny, silly, and has lots of action, guns, shooting, and car chases.  Plus it has Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren.  The plot was convoluted and the movie degraded into the absurd toward the end.  But it was fun, and a nice escape, even though it’s not a great movie.

RED stands for Retired Extremely Dangerous.  And, as indicated by that, it’s about former CIA agents/hitmen who get back together to fight off government-assassins.  Bruce Willis is a lonely, bored retired CIA agent who rips up his Social Security checks as an excuse to talk to the customer service rep in Kansas City who replaces them for him.  After he wakes up in the middle of the night to a CIA hit squad trying to kill him, Willis goes to Kansas City, kidnaps the phone rep, and gets back with his old CIA friends and frenemies to find out who is after them and why.  In some weird, convoluted plot point, the men behind the hit team are the Vice President and a corrupt businessman played by the far-left, anti-Israel, self-hater Richard Dreyfuss.

Like I said, it’s fun and enjoyable for the most part, but does get far too silly.


Watch the trailer . . .

*  “Heartbreaker [L’arnacoeur]“:  I absolutely LOVED this movie, and I’m puzzled why it wasn’t screened for critics.  A French movie with English subtitles, it’s shown mostly in arthouse movie theaters, but don’t let that fool you.  This is a funny, clever, escapist Guys’ chick flick.  A lot of fun.

Romain Duris is “The Heartbreaker,” a man whose profession is breaking up relationships.  He works with his goofy sister and brother-in-law to split women from their men.  Duris romances them.  And his two relatives engage in all sorts of impersonations, hijinks and high-tech surveillance.  And he has a perfect track record.

But Duris owes a mobster a lot of money, and if he doesn’t pay up, the mobster’s Serbian hitman will kill him.  So, Duris takes on a new mission:  splitting up the daughter of a wealthy mogul ten days before her wedding to the perfect guy, with whom she’s madly in love.  The woman is played by Vanessa Paradis, the real-life baby mama of Johnny Depp’s kids.  (That’s probably the only drawback to the movie). In order to woo her, Duris and his team research her likes, dislikes, and life history. And Duris must learn the words to her favorite Wham/George Michael songs and the moves from dancer numbers in her favorite movie, “Dirty Dancing.”

Yes, the end is predictable and a little sappy, but the rest of the movie more than compensates for it.  One of the best comedy/action/romance movies I’ve seen in a long time.  If you can’t see this in the theater, definitely rent it.  (But it’s an adult movie and definitely not for kids.)


Watch the trailer . . .

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14 Responses

I know it’s early, but i’m looking forward to your top ten for 2010.

Dave on October 15, 2010 at 6:28 pm

European movies are generally (not always) higher quality than American films.

My favorite escapist flick is one with Jean-Paul Belmondo running around Brazil! Amazing.

And there’s the Italian film about a rich capitalist girl and a Communist bum who get trapped on an island for days. Hilarious!

I’ll have to make a note to see “Heartbreaker” when comes out on DVD.

NormanF on October 15, 2010 at 7:33 pm

No, European films that WE see in the States are higher quality than the average US film, which makes sense—they’re pre-vetted. Sturgeon’s Law still applies (95% of everything is crap)

Occam's Tool on October 15, 2010 at 8:49 pm

From your description, it looks like “RED” is sort of a modernized take on the 1969 made-for-TV western, “The Over The Hill Gang.” In that, a group of geriatric gunslingers played by Pat O’Brien, Walter Brennan, Chill Wills and Edgar Buchannan are called out of retirement to clean up the crime-ridden town of Boulder Nevada, now run by a corrupt sheriff, mayor and judge, played by (respectively) Edward Andrews, Jack Elam and Andy Devine. I vaguely recall it as also being kind of cute but insubstantial:


Irving on October 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm

I did not enjoy Red as much as you did, Debbie. At first I was fooled into thinking the film was going to be a whimsical CIA farce, or a cute romance between Willis and Parker, or a senior citizen adventure fantasy. It was depressing when the story began more and more obviously to take aim at conservatives. We discover that the vice president was responsible for a My Lai-type massacre in Guatemala (referencing, I’m sure, the supposed lawlessness of US soldiers in Vietnam and Iraq); to hide this crime, the vice president handily deploys the CIA for a nefarious cover-up (spreading the meme that the CIA can easily be compromised and used for private purposes); Dreyfus enters as a venal defense contractor CEO for an organization that smells like Halliburton (I’m assuming that Dreyfus, given his politics, jumped at the chance to demonize Cheney); the supposed “happy ending” involves cold-bloodedly murdering the vice president (Is that what’s considered a “comic” resolution to a “light-hearted” story?.) The action moved well and the main characters were all likable and charming—so I’d rate the film as solidly effective liberal propaganda.

B: I saw nothing about a “My Lai-type massacre.” It’s simply said that CIA agents were murdered in Guatemala. And while that made me raise my eyebrows, in fact, the CIA is mostly a pan-Arabist, anti-Bush/anti-Cheney organization, which was out to undermine the Bush Administration. Remember Valerie Plame? The agency is filled with people of her ilk, ideology, and political bent. This is the organization, after all, that eagerly trained Palestinian terrorists and gave them guns. Remember the head of Bush’s CIA hugging Arafat? I do. And I don’t forget that George W. Bush betrayed the Reagan victory in Nicaragua by refusing to oppose Daniel Ortega’s recent election there (against pro-U.S. candidates) . . . and even embracing him. So, frankly, it’s not that much of a stretch.

This was not aimed against conservatives or Cheney. In fact, there is no reference to that at all. The VP in the movie is nothing like Cheney, doesn’t even look like him (not even close), and he was not killed (as I recall). He could have been Gore or Biden. Only the Dreyfuss character is killed. The Veep is wounded and we don’t know what happens to him. Do you think the Clint Eastwood movie in which the President is a murderer is anti-Bush or anti-Reagan? I don’t. There is no hint at all–not even a whiff–that Dreyfuss works for a Blackwater or Halliburton organization. He’s an evil businessman, yes. And that slightly bothered me (I mentioned it on my morning reviews on “The Mike Church Show” and was remiss in not mentioning it in my above review–though I did say the plot got stupid and sillly and this is part of that).

I’m surprised that you take a tiny hint of anti-Americanism (and it’s really vague, if at all) and say this was a left-wing movie, when you loved the clearly anti-American movie, “The Expendables,” b/c it has supposedly pro-American has-been ’80s action stars like Stallone in it. In that movie, the evil Latin American dictator was installed by the CIA, which has partnered with him in colonizing the country into the drug trade and a human rights abuse swamp.

Perhaps you are familiar with the comic book on which this is based (I am not), and maybe that contains all of the things hinted at here. Perhaps not. I don’t know. But as movies go, this one was relatively clean compared to most of the overwhelmingly anti-American and very obviously left-wing political stunts in so many movies. Yes, the Dreyfuss character and his role in the plot bothered me a little, but other than that, I think you’re seeing things that really weren’t there. It’s weird having to defend my somewhat positive review of this movie, because it really wasn’t a great movie and now I feel all-left-wing and dirty (like I need to jump back into the shower). To me, the movie was somewhat entertaining and funny, until it got stupid and silly–at all of the points you mention, which I didn’t go into in the review.

Thanks for a challenging and well-written critical comment, though. Yours is what a constructively critical comment should be like. And I am downgrading my rating from TWO REAGANS to 1.5 in consideration.

I usually agree with your comments, though (almost always). And always appreciate your insight on movies, even when we do not agree.


Burke on October 15, 2010 at 10:38 pm

Bruce Willis alone is not enough to offset the numbers of Lefties( Malkovich – with his obnoxious,weird-for-weird-sake acting, Mirren, Parker – that flaky airhead and her vacant eyes,Dreyfuss ) ,to make me want to see the movie.

Phineas on October 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

“In some weird, convoluted plot point, the men behind the hit team are the Vice President and a corrupt businessman ”

I am awaiting the next movie whose bad guys include corrupt government officials. (One based on Kwame Kilpatrick perhaps? Naaah, too easy.) Or maybe radical leftists. (One based on the Weather Underground, perhaps? Again, too easy.) Seriously, at least SOME of the action movies from the 70s and 80s involved corrupt government types that WEREN’T police/military or “family values conservatives”, and a few of them even had radical leftists as the bad guys. And get this … some of them actually had MUSLIM bad guys too! Imagine that, a movie depicting MUSLIMS as terrorists instead of police officers or business owners. Amazing, isn’t it?

Gerald on October 16, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I really liked “Red”. I thought it was a lot better than “The Expendables”. I’ve finally found a John Malkovich role that I enjoyed. The main downside for me was, in the theater I went to, having to sit through a preview of the lame movie about Valerie Plame.

M: Amen to all that (though I like Malkovich in a number of his roles). DS

Mark on October 17, 2010 at 1:16 am

I read the comic book “Red” when it came out. As soon as I saw the announcement they were making this film with the movie studios synopsis I knew I would not go and see it. The book is more like a “Jason Bourne retired agent” going up against the CIA on his own. The movie looks more like “Space Cowboys” with guns.
spoiler alert–for the comic:
Their was no “team”. It was called “Red” because he had to check in with an agent at the CIA to keep them informed of how things were going. Going good he would report “green” and then he would chat with the girl as this had been going on for a long time. When they try to kill him and he calls in, he finds out her extension is no longer in service. So now he knows they tried to kill him, so he reports “red” to the operator and the $hit hits the fan. He then decides to kill who ever ordered the hit and anyone else who even knows his name to protect his own life. They did the entire story in 3 books.

Guess this is why Jackass did more than triple the money on Friday as Red did. They just can’t learn to stick to their source material.

ender on October 17, 2010 at 2:50 am

La Deb, I just saw Red and feel about the same as your review. Not a great movie by any means but it was a fun flick that didn’t seem to take itself too seriously. One thing I like is it had older actors who don’t act old or stupid like most of those types of movies.

One thing I’d add is Helen Mirren is STILL!!!! one super hot, sexy babe at her age (or any age). Vavoom. In addtition, Mary-Louise Parker is stunningly gorgeous, too, which helped me enjoy the movie.

I saw My Soul to Take in 3D and it was awful. I used to enjoy Craven’s movies but this wasn’t scary or thrilling and the 3D was pointless for the most part. It was a pointless movie.

I’m looking forward to Heartbreaker, which opens at our local art house Belcourt Theatre next week.

Like “Mark”, I, too, dreaded having to sit through that lame Valerie Plame movie preview. What a shock!, it stars Sean Spicoli Penn. Why doesn’t Penn just remove all doubt and move to France or Cuba and bore them to tears with his self rigteous America hating act?

Jeff W. on October 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm

Your points above in response to my own comment were all well taken. Keep up the good fight, Debbie. You know how much I and others here admire what you’re doing.

Mark, I had to laugh when you wrote about “having to sit through” the “lame preview” of the upcoming Valerie Plame movie. My skin crawled as I watched that trailer, and it’s comforting to hear that other conservatives–or at least one, yourself– reacted the same way.

Incidentally, if my theory about Red being a hit job on Cheney is correct (combining the official role of the vice president in the film with the looks and corruption of the defense contractor CEO in the film), it will be the second time Dreyfus has recently played such a part. The first was Oliver Stone’s satirical biopic W where Dreyfus hammed it up as the former veep. If this meme spreads that Dreyfus can be used as a villainous stand-in for Cheney, it might ultimately result in much work for Dreyfus, since I’d assume that would be a safe Hollywood niche.

Here’s a question: How do you spell the movie Red? IMDB has it listed as “Red” at the top of the page, but spells it “RED” towards the bottom. Three quarters of the Rotten Tomatoes critics spell it “Red,” the other quarter “RED.” The movie makes clear that the word RED is used as an acronym (Retired, Extremely Dangerous), but the film title could be informally punning with the word “red.” Wikipedia spells the movie unambiguously as “Red” not “RED.” There’s a lot of confusion and I think Obama should call a beer summit and clear this important matter up (in between golf games and electioneering in Delaware).

Burke on October 17, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Still looking for the government bureaucrats, leftist congress-people and environmentalists villans to make their apprearance in these types of movies.

I have about 30 years left…

P. Aaron on October 17, 2010 at 1:54 pm

When I saw that there was a new movie called HEARTBREAKER, I hoped it was based on the Susan Howatch novel about the male prostitute in London, The Heartbreaker. No such luck. Susan Howatch’s later novels will never be filmed in this day and age. She portrays Christian clergymen as FLAWED, but POSITIVE human beinggs.

Miranda Rose Smith on October 18, 2010 at 2:58 am

Is anyone else having a problem with this website, and this one only, being center aligned? It makes it very hard to read.

KB on October 18, 2010 at 9:00 am

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