Movie Review: Red (2010)
You should be able to tell that Red, as a title, says as much or as little about a movie as needed. It can refer to communism, danger, bloodshed, or as it does in this case, a status designated from a government to an individual who knows too much. Someone “RED” is “retired” and “extremely dangerous.” The acronym by itself summarizes the plot in a quietly comical way.
Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) has been settling down, waiting for retirement benefit checks from the government. But his life no longer gives him a sense of companionship. He therefore befriends his caseworker, a woman named Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) who works for the benefits department. He tears up his checks just so he has an excuse to call her back to get the matter resolved, though they both know it isn't and won't be.
During his service, this Moses was too awesome of a dude, not unlike Jack Bauer and James Bond put together. Despite his age, he keeps in shape, and despite this one movie verses eight whole seasons of 24 with Jack Bauer (nearly half of them duds) and countless movies with Bond, you like this Moses almost as well as either of them.
But as we have already established, he knows too much and if he were ever to reveal it all, the government could be in jeopardy. Because of their conversations, he and Sarah are monitored. For reasons not initially known, it is decided that the two and another ex-high-achieving player named Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman) must bite the bullet.
On the run, they seek out a well-informed-but-paranoid old Floridian survivalist named Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich). From there, the four must discover why their names all appear on a hit-list discovered by a now-deceased reporter that goes all the way back to a job in Guatemala in 1981.
It is not apparent what this will be from the start when the dry humor follows an opening that sets the stage with plenty of gunfire. When it becomes evident that this is a romantic action-comedy, things immediately begin to look bleak. It just isn't "happening" between Willis and Parker, but you find you don't want or need a "spark" to distract you from seeing what happens next, especially when meeting the executor of the order to take them both out—a clean-cut, Blackberry-using, methodically operating family man/killer named William Cooper (Karl Urban).
Every few scenes cleverly blend to introduce new surprise elements that do all but destroy predictability while every character is “a character” in the most jovial sense of the word, as your father would have described them. Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox) is a retired Russian secret service cold war era figure with personality to boot, but no one surpasses Victoria (Helen Mirren) who has the approachableness of James Bond's “Mrs. Moneypenny,” with a deadly mantis-like skill for elimination.
Skip some segments and every other one is intended to blend star power with dry, sarcastic humor to follow some very satisfying action in this DC comic-based film, involving enough explosions to satisfy any 17-year-old while being as entertaining as the soft humor doesn't always succeed at being. You don't care about the plot as much as you do it's being there as an excuse to get to know the gang.
There are some potential holes in the story, but you never worry about them or investigate them, possibly because of the writing and fine storytelling skills, and possibly because of the middle-aged cast that appeals both to action-obsessed young viewers and their fellow middle-aged—you know…the guilty parties in sending the rest of us those stupid emailed videos of funny cats, weird kids, and talented babies. Yeah, them.
Grade: B+ (3 ½ stars)
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language)
Director: Robert Schwentke
Summary: When his idyllic life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, former black-ops agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive.
Starring: Bruce Willis "Frank Moses," Mary-Louise Parker "Sarah Ross," Helen Mirren "Victoria," Richard Dreyfuss "Alexander Dunning," Ernest Borgnine "Henry, The Records Keeper," John Malkovich "Marvin Boggs," Morgan Freeman "Joe Matheson," Karl Urban "William Cooper," James Remar "Gabriel Singer," Brian Cox "Ivan Simanov"
Genre: Action / Comedy / Romance