RED (2010) Image

RED (2010)

By Mark Bell | October 15, 2010

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a retired secret agent, living out the remainder of his life in boring suburban obscurity, his only highlight the arrival of a monthly pension check. Not because he likes the money, mind you, but because he likes pretending it doesn’t arrive so that he can call into customer support and chat with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who he has a long distance crush on. Everything is routine and unexciting… until a CIA hit squad shows up to kill him in his sleep.

Frank survives, of course, and the film kicks into high gear as he rushes to protect Sarah (who he suspects is a target as well, since the CIA is likely aware of his phone calls to her) and tries to figure out who wants him dead, and why. His search reveals that he’s just one on a hit-list, so he sets out to warn and recruit his ex-agent friends. There’s 80 year old, cancer-stricken Joe (Morgan Freeman), wasting away in a retirement home, and Marvin (John Malkovich), a paranoid nutjob that is off-the-grid (and out of his mind). As the group work together to figure out what’s going on, they cross paths with even more old enemies and friends, including Russian agent Ivan (Brian Cox) and sexy-but-dangerous Victoria (Helen Mirren), with CIA Agent Cooper (Karl Urban) in hot pursuit.

Bruce Willis plays it bad-a*s but sensitive as the agent who knows his way around breaking into the CIA and staying alive, but is utterly clueless on how to woo a woman, Mary-Louise Parker manages to play the trapped damsel without getting silly or obnoxious, Morgan Freeman is cool and charming, Helen Mirren is seductive and John Malkovich embodies the kind of character that we’ve all suspected really lurks in his personality: creepy and crazy. Basically, they all do their job and appear to be enjoying themselves at the same time.

Consider this an “Ocean’s Eleven” for the retired secret agent set, and just like Soderbergh’s film, the fun isn’t in breaking down the plausibility of what is happening on screen, but instead just watching this motley crew of old assassins figure out how to get in and out of various jams. The story isn’t particularly amazing or original (Someone in the government is trying to kill an old government agent because of what they may know!?! An unsuspecting woman finds herself falling for a guy who turns out to be a secret agent and has to accompany him on his adventure!?!), but it doesn’t matter. The film is entertaining, the action is fun and the explosions are appropriately over-the-top. It is end-of-the-year, dramatic-fare, awards season (most of the trailers prior to film were of the “inspired by a true story” displays of dramatic gravitas variety), so it really makes this popcorn film stand out. Which is great, because sometimes I just want to watch s**t blow up while John Malkovich creeps me out.

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