Review by Jack Foley
SOMETIMES you just have to kick back and have some fun at the movies. Red, which stands for ‘Retired: Extremely Dangerous’, is that type of movie. Taken with a pinch of salt, it’s frequently a blast; treat it at all seriously, and you’re liable to come messily unstuck.
Adapted from the darker graphic novel of Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, this DC Comics-backed action thriller features the combined talents of Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman, and plays to the strengths of everyone involved.
It’s self-consciously ridiculous and so much the better for it.
Willis plays bored, lonely retiree Frank Moses, a former CIA black ops specialist, whose only form of excitement is calling single civil servant Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) every so often for lengthy chats about life and wish fulfilment.
When he’s suddenly targeted for assassination by his own organisation, Moses sets out on a cross-country trek to save himself, an unwitting Sarah and some former colleagues, while uncovering a conspiracy that takes his rag-tag group of veterans to the higher echelons of Washington power.
Standing in their way, meanwhile, are the likes of Karl Urban’s dedicated new recruit, Richard Dreyfuss’ master manipulator, and Julian McMahon’s suave presidential candidate.
If truth be told, Robert (The Time Traveler’s Wife) Schwentke’s movie could have benefited from being a tad more edgy, a little more violent and a little less genre conformist.
But it gets by on the easy camaraderie that exists between its experienced cast, all of whom are clearly having a blast.
Willis trades well on his Die Hard past, Malkovich riffs on the type of unhinged psychopath he perfected in films like In The Line of Fire and Con Air (only this time playing for the good guys) and Freeman brings his usual sense of earnest charisma with a little dirty playfulness.
But it’s far from an elderly man’s world, as Parker is great as the civil servant along for the ride (a sort of younger, more street savvy Kathleen Turner from Romancing The Stone), and Mirren is terrific value as a cold-hearted assassin who brags of putting three bullets in a former lover after a test of loyalty. Seeing her set about the Secret Service in a white ball gown with various machine guns is almost worth the price of admission alone!
Schwentke, for his part, ensures there’s plenty of zip about the set pieces and a nice mix of black humour and affecting drama, thereby ensuring that for all the tomfoolery on display, you will ultimately care about the fates of all concerned.
So, while by no means a classic, Red is still a wild enough ride to be thoroughly recommended – so long as you enter with silliness in mind!
Running time: 111mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 14, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Bruce Willis interview
- Mary Louise Parker interview
- RED sequel greenlit
- Red Photo Gallery