Well it was an interesting idea, I’ll give them that. Get some older actors together and put them in an action movie that has them kicking ass and taking names against people half their age. It’s not everyday that you get to see Bruce Willis teaming up with Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich to solve a government conspiracy and clear their names in the process.
In this somewhat confusing plot, we see Bruce Willis taking the star role as Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent who spends his days looking forward to his daily phone conversations with his pension administrator Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker). It isn’t long until his idyllic life is uprooted when a hit squad is sent to his house with orders to take him out. Apparently Frank is one of many who are on a hit list. Why is Frank on this hit list? It has something to do with a government cover up from the 1980’s and apparently Frank is one of the loose ends.
Realizing he’s going to need some help if he is to survive, he goes to his former associates. Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marv (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) join Frank and together, this team of Red (Retired and Extremely Dangerous) CIA operatives try to figure out just what the heck is going on. Along the way, Sarah also gets pulled into the shenanigans and the team sets out to expose the conspiracy at hand.
The story is a bit messy at times and as the film goes on, it seems as if the filmmakers were less concerned with preserving the fluidity and logic of it all and more concerned with keeping the action up to par. The story goes from somewhat acceptable to just plain ridiculous and by the end, rather than trying to remember the details of it all, you’d rather just forget. It’s just one big incoherent mess that descends into nonsense rather quickly.
It’s not original in the slightest and I’m not going to try and pretend otherwise. Red has a fairly familiar story. In fact, at times it feels all too predictable. What will ultimately draw you into Red isn’t the plot, rather it’s the chemistry between the actors and the somewhat entertaining action that may leave you mildly pleased as the end credits roll.
All the action is shot pretty well and the humor is mixed in nicely. Director Robert Schwentke pulls off the stylized violence acceptably but it really isn’t anything we haven’t already seen earlier this year in The Losers or in previous years with Wanted or even Watchmen.
Perhaps the strongest part of the film is the performances. Willis gives off his dry wit and returns to his roots with the badass gig. Freeman is reliable as usual but he does get a bit of a shaft as his screen time is pretty limited. Malkovich steals just about every scene with his over the top paranoid character Marv and Mirren proves she can hold her own in the action genre.
The four leads (Willis, Malkovich, Freeman and Mirren) all work well together. Their chemistry is great and to see them working together and playing off each other on screen almost makes Red worth the price of admission. Supporting roles aren’t bad either as Brian Cox, Karl Urban and Julian McMahon show up in poorly written parts, but still manage to make the most of their material.
With a bit of a questionable script, lines like ‘Old man, my ass!” and “Bad move, grandpa!” are thrown out as intended disses and after a while, the whole thing starts to feel a bit too routine and generic. You start to realize that you’ve seen this all before and the film’s flaws become more apparent.
If you’re looking for geriatric actionfests, you’re better off seeing The Expendables. I know much has been made of Helen Mirren ripping into enemies with a machine gun that’s bigger than her but honestly, it’s really not that special. I simply can’t tell you to go spend $12 to see this because in the end you’re almost certainly going to feel let down.
Red offers nothing original and despite the solid efforts by the cast and the entertaining chemistry between them, this feels like a film better suited to DVD. It would make a solid rental as the mediocrity surrounding it is too hard to ignore. Ultimately, Red is an at times fun but in the end forgettable action comedy.
It delivers a few thrills here and there but ultimately, a bland story and forgettable characters turn Red into a mediocre action film at best.