RED, standing for Retired Extremely Dangerous, is one of the most preposterous films of the year, filled with a “how did they get these people to do this?” cast. It’s also one of the more entertaining; a celebration of crazy action and sly dialogue that has enough crossover appeal to possibly qualify as a date movie. While the story is nothing new at all, the execution is a hell of a lot of fun and those yearning to see Helen Mirren ripping rounds from a tank machine gun will have nothing to complain about.
Frank Moses (Willis) is a retired CIA operative. He leads a bland life, living by himself and doing the same routine every day. The highlight of his day is talking on the phone with Sarah (Louise-Parker), his pension administrator. The two like each other and set up a meeting in Kansas City. Before long, Frank’s entire house is under fire. The culprits: a government agency bent on killing Frank and his associates after a reporter leaked news of a government cover-up from the 1980’s. Frank reunites with his former colleagues, Joe (Freeman), Marv (Malkovich), and Victoria (Mirren), and basically wages an all-out war against the government in an effort to out a conspiracy whose implications reach as high as the Vice President.
The director here is Robert Schwentke, who did the mediocre The Time Traveler’s Wife and the more involving Flightplan. Here he just lets loose, letting his impressive ensemble cast do the heavy lifting. The action scenes are well shot and executed, though nothing overly original (a scene in which Willis steps out of a moving vehicle to open fire is spectacular). The script, by brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber (working from the graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner), is pretty leisurely-paced, but offers up laughs at a good clip.
The cast makes this film, and led by Bruce Willis, it’s very impressive. Willis executes his trademarked dry wit and everyman routine. His chemistry with Freeman, Mirren, and Malkovich is terrific. It’s Malkovich that steals the show as the eccentric and paranoid Marvin, a man whose conviction that someone is always trying to kill him seems crazy until it actually comes true. Mirren makes the biggest role reversal as the sweet but deadly Victoria. She’s having a blast. Mary Louise-Parker and Karl Urban turn in quality supporting work.
Not since the Lethal Weapon series has an action film been this accessible. With a decently tough PG-13 rating and some well-done action sequences, the guys will have little to complain about. With a romantic subplot and a hilarious performance from the usually serious Mirren, women should stay compelled throughout. While not perfect, RED is the popcorn film of the fall season, not to mention more entertaining than most of the pictures from what was a pathetic summer. See it – and take a date.
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Length: 111 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language.
Theatrical Release: October 15, 2010
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Written by: Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber. Based upon the graphic novel by Warren Ellis & Cully Hamner.
Cast: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren