Red Review


It’s hard to watch Red and not smile at least a little. Of course, it’s absolutely ridiculous, but it never takes itself too seriously. Is it as funny as it could have been? Probably not (I think an R-rating would have done the film wonders), but you’ll almost certainly have a good time watching the likes of Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren kick some ass.

Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent who now spends his time trying to pick up a woman, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), over the phone. One day, his suburban serenity is disrupted when a hit team tries to kill him. He dispatches them easily and heads to Kansas City, thinking Sarah too might be in danger. Thus begins a cross-country trip to track down former partners—Joe (Freeman), Marvin (Malkovich), and Victoria (Mirren)—and an adversary—Ivan (Brian Cox). Always in pursuit is William Cooper (Karl Urban), a top young agent who has been told these old folks are “Reds”—Retired, Extremely Dangerous—but the real reason he’s been dispatched to kill them is far more sinister.

If you’ve seen the trailer for Red, you pretty know what you can expect. If just the sight of Helen Mirren behind a machine gun or John Malkovich shooting off rockets was enough to make you laugh, you’ll like Red. I do wish the violence and profanity went a bit further. If Red was more like Kick-Ass for the retirement-home set, I think it could have been brilliantly fun, instead of the pleasant and enjoyable diversion it is.

Instead of bothering to talk about acting, writing, cinematography, or any of the film’s other basically irrelevant virtues (the film stands up solely on its humor and action), I’ll recount my five favorite spoiler-free moments:

5.) The opening hit on Frank – Talk about a complete lack of subtlety. More bullets are unloaded in this scene than in many entire action films.

4.) Marvin’s car house – Malkovich’s Marvin is probably the film’s most entertaining character. He gets to chew on the scenery a lot, and few moments are more indicative of his questionable sanity than when we see his two homes—one, a lovely decoy; the other, an underground metal lair.

3.) Ernest Borgnine – Just his presence is enough to make me laugh. Anyone remember his secret to looking young?

2.) Victoria unloads – Few actresses are as regal and polished as the great Helen Mirren. Seeing her get down and dirty in an action film like this is a riot. In one scene, she dons some winter camo and snipes a number of bad guys. But the coup de grace comes when she jumps behind an enormous automatic and just unloads, firing bullets at everyone and no one at the same time. It’s glorious.

1.) Marvin sniffs out an agent – This was an easy choice, as this scene had me in stitches. Marvin, having just touched down in Alabama, grabs a woman at the airport whom he says “smells like Washington.” He’s prepared to kill her, but Frank convinces him not to and lets the poor woman go. Later, when they are attacked at a shipyard by a hit team, we learn Marvin’s instincts were right. The woman goes after them with a rocket launcher and calls Marvin and Frank old. That sets him off, and the ensuing showdown is the film’s most delightfully absurd moment.

There you have it. If this sounds fun to you, then you ought to check out Red. If not, then I fear for your soul.

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