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Red (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

We have a sorta fascination with older, aged action heroes nowadays without really knowing it. People have flocked to Liam Neeson movies and there seems to be some interest still there when Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger do a movie. Its come a long way since an aged Roger Moore was vine swinging in India or hanging off a fire engine in San Francisco. Well, one series (Based on a comic book) decided to embrace all that, with the action comedy Red. Lionsgate is continue to consistently dig back into some of its catalog from this decade and make the 4K jump with them. Red and its sequel, Red 2, are next in line, coming out September 5th. If you’re interested in snagging a copy to have when it hits shelves, click on the Amazon link below.

Film 

After surviving an assault from a squad of hit men, retired CIA agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team for an all-out war. Frank reunites with old Joe, crazy Marvin and wily Victoria to uncover a massive conspiracy that threatens their lives. Only their expert training will allow them to survive a near-impossible mission — breaking into CIA headquarters.

Red was a pretty big hit back in 2010, and what looked like a new pure action franchise for star Bruce Willis as he was entering the more senior years of his gun blasting. Along with him were other seniors who hadn’t really the chance to wield weaponry in such a fashion on film before. Though on paper, it looked like a nice Expendables-style team up, though this one turned out to be much much more enjoyable than those movies. Its also a comic book adaptation, and with a fun little concept turn easily adaptable film.

This may be the last time we ever saw Bruce Willis in a pure action movie (Looper, to me, is more sci-fi/action), doing his thing and having a grin while doing so.  Its a role that caters to his action and comedic strengths and he’s given a cast, from Mary-Louise Parker to Helen Mirren to Karl Urban, that he bounces off of quite well.  Up til this point in his career he’s always seemed like an ageless wonder in action movies, and while he’s a senior in this film Red is no exception. He’s got the gusto and the extreme cool like when he just waltzes out of a spinning car firing at an SUV like it aint a thing. In fact, that shot may be the last “moment” we have from him. Unfortunately after 2012, the man just shows up, says lines, goes back to his trailer and then cashes his check. Red is truly one of our last glances at him giving us what we love about him so much.

Our supporting cast is great, too, and having a complete ball. Helen Mirren may be one of the bunch having the most fun of them all. Though, having a career that includes a National Treasure movie and Excalibur, she’s no stranger to action, but we never think of her and it in the same sentence. Even though she doesn’t show up until the 1 hour mark, she makes the best of it here though, with the biggest enjoyment coming from the largest guns and biggest explosions. John Malkovich gives in a great turn with his insanity as only he could do. Morgan Freeman gives you what you expects from him. Its nice to see Mary-Louise Parker get to be in something like this and bringing her great charm and comedic timing along with her. As an adversary, Karl Urban puts in some great work and is always so top notch that he’s also underrated. He gives us the villainous goon that we also sort of have some kind of sympathy for.

Something that helps take Red over the hump from just being all right to being really fun is its director, Robert Schwentke. Coming into this, he really wasn’t known for big action movies, but shows that isn’t an issue and seamlessly transitions like the old vets he’s directing. There’s a real eye for how to move the camera in these sequences, making each one of them unique, fun and engaging. He follows through on some swat men on a sequence, he spins the camera 360 degrees inside leading to out at one point, its a just a real good sense of flavor and involvement for one watching that adds to the enjoyment just as much as the performances from the cast and the humor.

Going back to Red for the first time in probably the 7 years since it came out, I forgot just how much fun the movie is. Everyone here, looks to be having an absolute joy making it, and it almost feels like everything happened at the right place and the right time. Granted, I’m not sure it delivers on anything more than what the trailers promised, but that’s just fine. Its a real high note that they are going to not be able to match in the sequel, but at least we get to have Bruce Willis as an action man in top form one last time.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265 (With Dolby Vision)

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: The original Blu-ray for Red had a pretty good looking image, so its 4K update looks pretty good itself. Again with Lionsgate and their catalog titles, its one of the incremental upgrades. Though, the image is nice and a little darker, thanks to the black saturation on it. Details are strong and the image looks just a bit more smooth in its performance. I do think the characters and their skin are a bit more crisp, detailed and full looking. HDR does get put to use, but aside from the obvious explosions and gunfire, its sparingly used for smaller details in clothes or objects and the smaller glowing lights in places. Overall, I liked the image a bit here and find it to be an upgrade, but how strong of an update you think it is, is probably going to be on you and your own eyes.

Depth:  Dimensional work on it is just fine. Its nothing really special, but going to 4K has given the film an uptick in confidence when it comes to character and camera movements. Spacing does look good, proving moreso in exterior scenes than that of ones in close spaces (Though Helen Mirren’s house looks more solid than most other interiors).

Black Levels: Blacks are well saturated and keep things pretty dark with many looks in its palette. What this actually does is make for a stronger image overall. Every object and person looks stronger, a bit bolder, sharper and giving the appearance of a more defined look. There was no evidence of any crushing in the image when viewing for the review.

Color Reproduction: Colors overall look pretty solid and full, bold in every manner. The HDR isn’t really abused at all. It starts out light with little flashing lights, like the blinking one on Mary-Louise Parker’s headset in the early goings. Explosions and flashing lights (Like a yellow alarm in an elevator) get a little bit more of a glow. Brian Cox wears a purple coat in his first meeting and that really pops. Sharpees on Ernest Borgnines desk have a bit more of a burst. There’s a red rope tied to a dock and a boat that glows in a Louisiana sequence. A pastel blue-like military uniform Morgan Freeman wears is a clothing highlight. I think at best, the work on the HDR is good, but maybe a little understated as a lot of it is used in background object or little props you may not be looking out for. One of the biggest highlights on the colors is at the ballroom where Julian MacMahon announces his candidacy for presidency.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural, with a very bold appearance and maintain that consistency throughout the film.  Facial details like wrinkles, lip texture, freckles, stubble, dried blood, lip texture, scarring and more are pretty plain as day in this image from pretty much and distance of shot.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.  

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible), English 2.0 Dolby Digital (Audio Optimized for Late-Night Listening), Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish

Dynamics: Red’s Atmos track really rocks the room. The sound effects on this movie are almost worth the price of this purchase alone. There is a lot of really good layering and definition with the gun blasts from cooking them on a frying pan to shooting a rocket. The mix has a good balance on its score, vocals and effects with all of them culminating in some really effective, engaging and almost interactive sequences. Even the little effects are perfectly thought out. Every environment in this thing is really well thought out and has the viewer given the feeling that they are right in the middle of the action.

Height: You’ll get things like bullets, helicopters, rockets and even a low angle on a car going past the camera pick up a bit in the ceiling. Its used appropriately and sparingly.

Low Frequency Extension: Red booms and blasts your living. Gunfire, even from a handgun, is like a punch right in the face. Glass shattering makes you wince and punches really pack a whallop. Explosions roar all through your living room and car crashes have you bracing for impact. Aerosmith’s “Back In The Saddle” also pumps in the room.

Surround Sound Presentation: There are a lot of bullets flying around in this movie, and they are all accounted for, zipping through every channel in the mix. Explosions, car crashes, fires, car tires screeching and more all accuracy placed and their movements travel with precision across your home theater. Rear and side channels provide some good ambiance in times as well.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are loud, clear and crisp and fall right into the mix, blending in perfectly with the music and effects.

Extras 

Red comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Retired CIA Field Officer Robert Baer

Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD, 8:46)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:11)

Summary 

Red is a super fun movie with one of the best (And oldest) casts ever assembled for an action/comedy. It makes the leap to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a noticeable improvement of its standard Blu-ray counterpart, but how much of said improvement could be left to the eye of the beholder. The HDR usage is done in a natural and not overboard fashion while boasting a more confident, bolder image thank to the blacks. Its new Dolby Atmos track is probably the bigger jump, roasting your room with gunfire and explosions. Extras are ported over from the Special Edition Blu-ray with nothing new to speak of. If you’re wanting to upgrade, do so, but wait til you get a good discounted pricepoint.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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