Red certainly isn’t an important or groundbreaking film, but it is a lot of fun, and that counts for something in my book. Sometimes that is exactly what we are seeking out, and this film delivers. It’s a blast.
Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, a man who appears to be living a ho-hum existence in the suburbs. He spends his free time convincing a government employee in Kansas City (Sarah, played by a sassy Mary-Louise Parker) that he has not received his government checks. He is really ripping them up, just so he can call her every few days and talk. The two have adopted a flirty rapport during their chats.
In a thrilling opening sequence, Frank finds out (rather unexpectedly) that he is being targeted by assassins, and he quickly and efficiently employs a variety of weapons and booby traps to thwart their efforts. It is clear that this is no ordinary citizen, you see Frank is classified by the CIA as RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous.)
After he has time to get his wits about him, Frank rushes to Kansas City to rescue/kidnap Sarah, because she will be targeted l if the unknown assailants check his phone records.
Naturally this is quite awkward to explain to a total stranger, hence the need for kidnapping her. The first thirty minutes of the movie plays like a screwball comedy. Mary-Louise Parker is no stranger to dark humor thanks to her gig on Showtime’s Weeds, and she is pitch perfect playing off Willis. The two bicker like a an old couple while he reveals to her his former occupation. This piques her interest, because she has a penchant for trashy CIA agent/romance novels. What are the chances?
The rest of the movie entails Frank reconnecting with his old cronies. Morgan Freeman plays Joe, who is in an old folk’s home, and Brian Cox plays Ivan, a Russian ex-spy. They are both good in the movie, but the real treat(s) here are John Malkovich and Helen Mirren.
Malkovich plays a ultra-paranoid ex CIA agent who is completely whacked out due to all the LSD experimentation he was subjected to by the government when he was younger. Mirren plays Victoria, who used to be a babe back in the day. She can’t wait to get her finger back on the trigger, she confesses that she has really missed killing people for a living. It’s a great juxtaposition to her current life, given that she lives in a stately mansion that could easily grace the pages of Town & Country magazine.
Karl Urban (Star Trek) and frequent David Mamet muse Rebecca Pidgeon play a few CIA agents with dubious intentions. Richard Dreyfuss also joins the fray as one of the bad guys.
Red is based on the graphic novel written by Warren Ellis. Though it doesn’t really feel like a graphic novel, the set pieces in different cities are introduced by postcards that fade to the actual location, a cool little effect.
The plot is a bit ridiculous, and plays out sort of like a Scooby-Doo episode, but some snappy dialogue and great action sequences make up for that aspect. Quite simply, it is great to see this talented group of actors side by side in one film. Red serves as the perfect palate cleanser between all the heavy Oscar season movies we will be watching over the next few months. It should play well to all demographics.
Red is directed by Robert Schwentke (Flightplan, The Time Traveler’s Wife) and stars Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Morgan Freeman, Karl Urban, James Remar, Richard Dreyfuss, Rebecca Pidgeon, and John Malkovich. Rated PG-13.