Details: United States, English
Synopsis: Frank (Bruce Willis), Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) used to be the CIA's top agents – but the secrets they know just made them the Agency's top targets. Now framed for assassination, they must use all of their collective cunning, experience, and teamwork to stay one step ahead of their deadly pursuers and stay alive. To stop the operation, the team embarks on an impossible, cross-country mission to break into the top-secret CIA headquarters, where they will uncover one of the biggest conspiracies and cover-ups in government history.
Gun-toting geezers have a ball in risible crime caper.
Would the Hollywood studios please declare a moratorium on a suspension-of-disbelief syndrome which is infecting too many movies this year? The ruse was blatantly and badly employed in the execrable Knight and Day and in the otherwise far more intelligent Salt.
Now it’s surfaced again in Red, the fitfully entertaining action-comedy scripted by brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber, loosely based on the DC Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.
In all three films, renegade CIA agents (still in active service in the first two, retired in the latest caper) miraculously survive myriad bullets fired in their direction by numerous law enforcement officers who are supposed to be on the same side. Conversely these assassins shoot their foes with deadly aim.
If you can swallow all that, the man pleasure in watching Red comes not from the preposterous plot but from admiring the performances by Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren, all of whom rise above the risible material. Yes, grey power rules, topped off by a cameo from 93-year-old Ernest Borgnine.
Willis plays Frank Moses, a newly retired CIA operative who had sacrificed his personal life for Uncle Sam and now gets his kicks by chatting on the phone to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a bored, lonely government pension service employee.
After a group of masked, heavily-armed men show up at Frank's house and try to kill him, he miraculously escapes (syndrome example No. 1) and makes a beeline for Sarah’s house in Kansas City, fearing she’ll be a target. She freaks out, as you would, but reluctantly joins him in what turns out to be a cross-country odyssey (just like the set-up in Knight and Day). In pursuit are CIA operative William Cooper (Karl Urban), who’s been ordered to take him out, and, later, the FBI and Secret Service, none of whom can shoot straight (Syndrome examples 2 through too many).
Frank has been designated as code RED – “Retired, Extremely Dangerous” – for obscure reasons related to a bizarre conspiracy involving the greedy, corrupt US Vice President Stanton (Julian McMahon, mustering about as much gravitas as a Mayor of Woop Woop), a Halliburton-style defence contractor (Richard Dreyfuss) and a covert mission in Guatemala.
Clearly outnumbered, Frank recruits his former colleagues, 80-year-old Joe (Freeman), who lives in a retirement home and in a convenient plot contrivance is terminally ill; Marvin (Malkovich), who is understandably paranoid after being fed daily doses of LSD for 11 years in a secret mind-control experiment; and the elegant Victoria (Mirren), who runs an upmarket B&B but confesses she still takes the odd contract (ie to kill).
Borgnine plays a crusty records keeper in the bowels of the CIA headquarters, a fortress which Frank easily penetrates, and Brian Cox is an ageing Russian spy who once had a fling with Victoria.
The veteran actors look like they’re enjoying themselves hugely at our expense, and why not? In a return to form after the misfires Cop Out and Surrogates, Willis is suitably cool and laconic while chaos erupts around him. Mirren may be the only living actress who can plausibly play the Queen and a gun-toting action heroine.
Director Robert Schwentke sensibly gives his cast free rein but abandons any pretence of credibility as the retirees dodge numerous bullets and rockets. The venerable cast deserved a more intelligent vehicle for their talents.
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