A RED Primer

Posted by under *like, Comics, Movies |

Last month MLD presented a primer on all things Scott Pilgrim to prepare readers for the upcoming Edgar Wright film, which actually hits theaters this Friday. Today we will be discussing the Wildstorm/Homage Studios series RED that has inspired a Bruce Willis film due out this Fall.

Spoilers will follow.

RED was a three issue series that Wildstorm released in 2003 from the mind of Warren Ellis with art by Cully Hammer. Conspiracy theorists often joke (or maybe not joke) that immediately after being inaugurated American Presidents are taken into a hidden room in the White House and told all of the country’s most guarded secrets. Things like who killed JFK, what secret society is really controlling the world government, and what aliens look like. That’s kind of how RED starts out.

Instead of the president, however, the book opens with the new director of the CIA being taken into a room and shown a video that illustrates the full nature of the horrible things that the CIA is sometimes called upon to do. We don’t get to see the actual video, but the Director leaves the room convinced that no one outside the CIA can possibly be allowed to know of these secrets. He orders the agency to assassinate Paul Moses, a former CIA hitman who was involved in many of the heinous acts in the video. The goal is basically to erase any evidence of the CIA’s sordid past. This particular assassin has long since retired to a life in isolation after his forty years as a killer. Moses is completely loyal, has no interest in publicly revealing the nature of his career, and despite the Director’s concern, poses no threat to the Agency… at least until his peace is disturbed.

We quickly discover that the CIA has turned on the greatest assassin who has ever lived and now he wants revenge. What follows is an ultraviolent, often silent, humorless swath of destruction as Moses looks to even the score. The book doesn’t really sugar coat anything or hide the fact that Moses is tormented by past. Ellis really tries to reach the heart of why Moses is such a monster and discusses the way for better or worse men today seem to have grown soft compared to those of two generations ago. It’s an enjoyable enough short read, but it’s not at all what the film is marketing itself to be.

This is not a fun action comedy about a bunch of old assassins putting the band back together for one last adventure. See the trailer below. There are no references to RED meaning Retired Extremely Dangerous or anything of the sort. There’s no non-assassin woman just along for the ride to act as comic relief. In fact, the film seems to be just taking the surface details of the original story (an old CIA assassin is trying to break into the Agency’s offices in Langley, VA) and using that to tell a whole new story. I’m not knocking it. It seems to have a great cast. We’ll see what they’ve created when RED hits the screen in October.

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