RED * * *

Genre: Action Comedy

Director: Robert Schwentke

Writers: Jon Hoeber and Eric Hoeber, based on the graphic novels by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer

Cast: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox

Running Length: 111 minutes

Synopsis: The film opens with Frank Morse (Bruce Willis) in Cleveland, where he is engineering flirty conversations with his pensions claim officer Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), situated in Kansas City. Frank is no ordinary pensioner, however, and when a team of hit men infiltrates his house one night, he realizes his past is catching up with him in a rather unpleasant manner. After travelling to Kansas to “kidnap” Sarah, Frank begins to round up his old team: 80-year old Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer but hasn’t lost his edge; the paranoid Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) who is suspicious of everyone and everything; KGB agent Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox), who is eager to get back in the game even if it’s in collaboration with his former enemies; and Victoria (Helen Mirren), a former MI6 agent who still misses her old life as an operative. The team has to figure out who is out for their lives, but are also being pursued doggedly by CIA agent William Cooper (Karl Urban), who doesn’t really understand what RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) means until he goes mano a mano with the team.

Review: RED is a movie that requires a healthy serving of suspension of disbelief – Helen Mirren toting a huge-ass gun? John Malkovich being a superb marksman? It sounds more than a little unbelievable (okay, maybe excepting Bruce Willis), and yet once said suspension is in place, the film becomes a rather enjoyable romp, albeit a film that has more cheeky moments that true blue action.

Much of this has to be credited to the stellar cast. These are all old hands in the industry, and many have shown their thespian talents in previous films. Even in RED, where no one is truly taken seriously, the level of commitment each veteran has in their character is clearly visible. It’s very impressive that the producers have managed to put together such an epic ensemble cast, and the star power alone is likely to contribute to a large component of the box office takings. And unlike many other movies, in this case it’s deservedly so.

It’s very easy to tell that the actors had a ball of a time filming RED, and there’s an easy chemistry between all the main characters. Bruce Willis remains surprisingly charming even in his mid fifties, and the trio of John Malkovich, Brian Cox and Morgan Freeman hold their own as supporting characters without much scenery chewing. Far and away my favourite, however, is Helen Mirren. There’s a perverse pleasure in seeing the Queen of England handling big guns like a pro, and Mirren really milks it for all it’s worth while staying very classy. It’s a wonderful, fun performance that on its own is already worth the price of admission. 

Apart from the inspired casting and performances, the action sequences are actually rather entertaining in their own right, although obviously for a cast in this age bracket the action is pretty dialed down. Schwentke compensates for this by employing wit and humour, planting tongue firmly in cheek in many scenes. It all comes together pretty well, and RED is a rather entertaining two hours – not a groundbreaking film by any measure, but fun and easy to sit through.

Rating: * * * (out of four stars)

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