jump to navigation

Books-Into-Movies: “Red” (based on Red) December 19, 2011

Posted by rwf1954 in book synopsis, books, books compared to movies, books into movies, Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Kelly Hamner, Morgan Freeman, movie commentary, movies, movies based on books, Red, Warren Ellis.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

(Richard Warren Field wrote the award-winning novel,
The Swords of Faith. Read why this book will make a great movie.)

(This month, I posted a Books-Into-Movies commentary on the recent film release, “Hugo,” based on a graphic novel. Last year, I posted two Books-Into-Movies commentaries about graphic novels at a blog I discontinued last year, “Books Into Movies.” This commentary was first posted at that blog in October of 2010.)

“Red” (Movie Release Date: October 15, 2010)

Based on the graphic novel Red, written by Warren Ellis and Kelly Hamner, published 2009.

The Movie: “Red” the movie needed to expand considerably the story provided by the graphic novel Red. Much is added to fill this out into a full-length movie. Also, the filmmakers made some changes in approach:

  • The movie’s tone is comic—swaggering and campy. (The graphic novel is unrelentingly dark, bloody and violent.) The music at the outset is light, setting the altered tone. (Energetic electric guitar based rock music underlies the action later.)
  • The hero, the Bruce Willis character, Frank Moses instead of Paul Moses, is not as vicious as the main character in the book. Many times, when non-lethal force will accomplish what is needed, non-lethal force is used. The Moses character in the book kills scores of government agents.


With a movie that required so much expansion from the book, we have not so much a series of changes between the book and the movie, but additions. I will go through these differences as is my custom in these posts, not trying to capture every difference, but to discuss details that seem different and/or interesting:

  • The book starts off revealing the reason the Moses character has been ordered to be killed. The reason is vague—horrible deeds documented in “Room R.” The movie starts off with the Moses character himself, a charming humanizing start for him (Bruce Willis was the perfect choice for this role—the charming, comic, action hero). The reasons for the attempted hit are a mystery that drives the movie, and involves more specific, narrower issues.
  • Sally Janssen from the book is now loosely morphed into Sarah. Sarah’s role is different, as a pension agent, not a CIA official, and her role is expanded to make her the main character’s love interest. None of the Sarah storyline—the initial kidnapping to the final scene when she’s held hostage to coerce the Moses character—is in the book. It’s all part of the story expansion.
  • During the very first scene with attempts to kill the Bruce Willis character, he beats them unconscious and injects one; he does not kill them as he does in the book.
  • This movie is based on a “graphic novel” as I have said. There is a campy element of melodrama, of exaggeration to the film that does suggest the “comic book”/”graphic novel” nature of the book, evidenced in the following scenes or story elements:
    • Shooting Moses’ house with so many bullets that parts of the house collapse. (This reminded me of a scene in the movie “The Gauntlet” a number of years ago during which the police do shoot a house until the whole thing collapses.)
    • One of the characters shoots a rocket propelled grenade with a pistol, hitting it on the tip, detonating it in midair, destroying the grenade and the enemy shooter.
    • Hitting another grenade as if it was a baseball, right back at the enemies who threw it.
    • A Russian agent says with casual nostalgia “I haven’t killed anyone in years.”
    • “Three in the chest” delivered by Victoria to the one she loved placed so close together and accurately that they wouldn’t kill him—instead of three in his head. Ivan shows the scars and treats them as a sign of affection.
    • Diminutive Victoria stands resolutely in her white dress, shooting up a parking garage with a heavy machine gun (that she leaves to continue shooting on some sort of automatic pilot).
    • After the CIA assassin turns against his superiors and saves the main character’s life, the Moses character utters an understated “thank you.
  • There is no CIA director Michael Beasley (or assistant director Adrian Kane). The chief antagonist is a CIA hired assassin, and then the Vice President and an industrialist who is his backer. (There is also the CIA supervisor of the assassin.) None of these characters are in the book.
  • The Morgan Freeman character (Joe), the John Malkovich character (Marvin) and the Helen Mirren character (Victoria) are not in the book (so none of the action involved with those characters is in the book.)
  • There is no New York Times reporter killed by a South African hit team, or a cover-up of an operation in Guatemala in the book.
  • There are no Russians joining Moses to fight the current CIA in the book.
  • The confrontation at Langley is not at the end of the movie as it is in the book, and it involves the CIA assassin, not the CIA director. The movie ends instead with the turnabout of the CIA assassin (who recognizes he has more in common with the Moses character than with his superiors issuing his orders), with the “good guys” winning and moving on without any problems or consequences. (At the end of the book, the Paul Moses character has killed the CIA director, and just about everyone at the CIA headquarters, and faces a line of rifle barrels).

The graphic novel Red only offers hints of “Red,” the movie. The tone is completely different; the ending is completely changed. The significant story expansion adds new characters who are consistent with the campier, more swaggering comic tone of the movie. These characters and all the various storylines they add are not even hinted at in the book.

The Book: Red (“Retired, Extremely Dangerous”) is the second recent major movie release based on a graphic novel. (I have also posted a comment on the movie based on Tamara Drewe.) Red is a short, simple story, with much more drawn action than dialog or narrative.

In Red, the graphic novel, a new CIA director comes in. He receives a briefing of what’s in “Room R.” The new director (Michael Beasley) is so shaken by what he has learned that he orders the retired CIA agent responsible to be killed. “No one can know this even happened. That the world was even like this.” Readers are given few details on what this is—just the indication that retired CIA agent Paul Moses killed a lot of people.

The first assassination attempt on Paul Moses, at his home, fails. He calls his old friend and handler Sally. She doesn’t seem to know about the assassination attempt.

They try to kill him again by confronting him in a dark alley—they have disabled a light-bulb to try to set up the killing. Moses kills another three would-be assassins. He tries to get one of the assassins to say why he has been marked for death. He gets no response. He calls Sally again. The phone goes dead in the middle of the call.

Another team tries to kill Paul Moses. He sneaks up on one of the team and runs a spear through his temples. Adrian Kane, assistant to the new director waits in his office. He is not surprised at the difficulty they are having killing Paul Moses.

Moses kills a policeman, part of the outer containment team at headquarters. The new director demands to know why they can’t kill him. Adrian tries to explain again how proficient and effective Moses is, even though he is old and retired.

Moses calls in. He has killed the entire outer containment team. He says he is coming for the director. He visits Sally. He leaves her alive and moves in toward the director. The director wants “kill teams into choppers and en route right now.”

Moses breaks through security, killing two guards with one bullet—through the mouth of one up through the forehead of the second man. He crashes into the building. He tells the director he will lay down his arms and wants the director to come out and talk to him. The director threatens to kill Moses’ niece in England—he will have her “butchered like a hog.”

The director hears knocking at the door. He yells out that he’s on the phone. Moses enters. “I know.” He tells the director he has killed the director’s family. He shoots assistant director Adrian Kane in the hand. Kane tells him “you will have to kill me and everyone in this building, because we will raise an army against you.” Moses tells them he already has killed everyone. He admits to being the “monster” the director has called him. He describes some of his horrible atrocities and says “I am a monster because I accept the hard choices.”

He then tells the director “Your wife and children are quite safe.” The director tearfully thanks him. Moses asks “Do you think they’ll miss you?” He kills the director. After a short, fairly cordial conversation, he kills the assistant director. The book ends as he walks through a doorway to face a line of drawn rifles. Moses brandishes his pistol saying “I’m the Monster. Do you best.”




No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: