Red - Special Edition Blu-ray Review
Red comes to Region B-locked UK Blu-ray complete with a 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1. The movie is a glossy, stylish production, with a decent enough budget to it, and given it’s such a recent film, you’d expect all this to amount to a pretty impressive video presentation – and you’d be right. Detail is excellent throughout, from the lines on the characters’ well worn faces to the battle scars to the detail of the surroundings; long shots and close-ups, it all looks fantastic. And with no softness, edge enhancement or other digital artefacts rearing their ugly heads there’s really very little to complain about. There’s a fine veneer of suitably filmic grain, but that only lends itself to enhancing the proper movie quality of the production. The film is bursting with colour – but still able to place it all within relatively realistic backdrops, every tone rendered authentically. And black levels are solid, rounding out an excellent visual presentation that may not quite get a perfect 10, but is still tangibly demo-quality.
And on the aural front Red does finally hit top marks, coming complete with a boisterous, bombastic DTS-HD Master Audio track which, whatever your age, will rattle your bones. With the snappy dialogue coming across clearly and coherently from the frontal array – from the gruff low tones of Willis to the ranting screams of Malkovich. The real action, literally, takes place on the effects front, with that thunderous .50 marking the pinnacle of what this track has to offer in terms of potency, directionality, surround use and bass. Seriously, that beast will make you wonder whether your house is still intact afterwards. And with rifle shots, shotgun blasts, dozens of pistol and machine-gun rounds all lighting up the soundstage, you often feel like in a damn warzone, standing right next to these highly skilled old codgers. It doesn’t end there though, because the track doesn’t only focus on the bigger, louder elements – acute ambience is keenly observed, creating wonderful atmospherics which definitely come from the rear (check out the relatively quiet moment where the snipers are chatting in the woods). The score itself isn’t particularly memorable, borrowing elements from everything from Bond to the Ocean’s movies, but is also perfectly suited to the proceedings – often quite comical, accentuating the silliness of the situations, but also prepared to take it to the next level and deliver some beats when the action quotient kicks in. Bass, as touched upon, is a big player in this release, and overall it’s probably the most fun, expressive and engaging track I’ve come across so far this year.
The UK release of Red comes in one flavour only, whereas the US equivalent is available as either a bare-bones or a special edition. Here we get all of the extras from the special edition, although it should be noted that they still appear to be fairly thin on the ground – take a closer look, however, and you see that basically most of the prime bases are covered.
A dry technical Commentary with the Director? No. A fun but frivolous chat with the stars? No. This Commentary is a whole different animal, provided by retired CIA Agent Robert Baer, who acted as the technical consultant for the film. Quite cleverly, he separates the true-to-life ideas from the outright fantasy, exploring what really happens when Agents retire, what they do with their lives and how difficult it is to integrate back into society; counterpointing all that with the pure fiction that they deliver for the purposes of providing a fun ride. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have liked to have heard from the eclectic cast – hearing Willis, Freeman, Malkovich and Mirren having a blast reminiscing about their work on the film would have been great – but this truly is a remarkable offering, and well worth checking out.
Access: Red follows suit from the Commentary, offering a comprehensive and exhaustive PiP accompaniment which provides everything from fun fact trivia to behind the scenes footage to interview snippets from the cast and crew. Sometimes informative, sometimes amusing, this is another well-produced extra feature with lots to offer fans of the film. Worth checking out.
Here we get 11 Deleted Scenes, totalling only 8 minutes of extra footage, so some of them are understandably quite short. Many are just a pointless extra line here and there but a couple of them are actually quite enjoyable – offering a smattering of extra gags and even action sequences, and thus worth dipping into in order to find the hidden treasure. The last two – both extended moments during the finale – are the most interesting.
Guns and gags, this one hits the mark on both counts. If anything, it’s let down by an unnecessarily convoluted plot which just doesn’t work alongside the frivolity of the otherwise pure action-comedy antics. The eclectic cast of Willis, Freeman, Malkovich and Mirren are perfectly deployed in the lead roles, and are an absolute joy to watch – Malkovich arguably providing some of the best comedy and action, even if Willis is a strong contender on both counts. This is definitely switch-your-brain-off material, even if you may not realise that until quite some time into the movie, and if you remember to do so then you will likely enjoy the sheer entertainment that is on offer. This isn’t going to be a particularly memorable entry in Willis’ filmography, but it is an engaging, eminently watchable stepping-stone towards the (hopefully final) next Die Hard sequel.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray, we get the same superior video and audio as the US equivalent, but with all of the decent extras that are otherwise only to be found on the US Special Edition, making this a solid purchase for UK viewers. Red is at least worth a rental and, depending whether or not you like the sound of it, it might make for a pretty good blind buy. Silly but great fun, it proves, once again, that there may well be life in these old bones yet.
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