Bruce Willis’ “Red” is stylish and hilarious. Which studio passed on it?

By Sean O’Connell Don’t sleep on “Red” this weekend.

Audience members looking for a stylish action thriller with a sharp sense of humor and a to-die-for cast of colorful character actors will want to sample Robert Schwentke’s adaptation of a witty, gritty graphic novel. Tracking numbers have been solid, and our preview audience (granted, a small sample) hooted and hollered along with the film earlier this week.

But one specific studio won’t be hoping for “Red” to clean up at the box this weekend, as the Hollywood Reporter notes that Warner passed on the project before it ended up at Summit – the studio best known for backing Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series.

“It is the first movie based on a DC Comics title that was not made by DC sister company Warners,” the story says. “And now that Warners has made moves to envelop DC and exploit the film potential of DC’s library more aggressively by creating DC Entertainment, it’s likely to be the last one as well.”

So Warner let “Red” slip through its fingers. It’s hard to fault them. On paper, its sounds like a gamble. Older thespians like Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman wielding massive hand cannons as retired spies enlisted for one more missions? Bruce Willis as yet another indestructible force fighting to bring down a corrupt government official? John Malkovich as the unpredictable member of the group, a wild-card agent who has been fed a steady diet of LSD for the better part of two decades? A gamble.

Plus, Schwentke hadn’t proven himself yet. “Flightplan” was a modest grosser ($89 million in 2005), while his “Time Traveler’s Wife” adaptation – for Warner Bros., it should be noted – didn’t lure the large audience attached to that book.

But “Red” should put him on the map and, at the very least, field him plenty more offers to direct projects that sound too much like “Red.” I hope he goes in a different direction. “Red” works against its odds. The cast has chemistry, the script has zing, and the set pieces have energy. Duplicating it would be tough. Trying to would be unwise.

Want to learn more about “Red” before it opens tomorrow? Yahoo Movies has a behind-the-scenes featurette on its site today. And “Red” opens everywhere tomorrow. Be sure to give it a try.

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