Hey, it’s worth the price of the ticket to see Dame Helen Mirren packing heavy artillery!
Director Robert Schwentke’s adaptation of the DC Comics graphic novel RED provides a thrill ride that entertains. “RED” stands for “Retired Extremely Dangerous,” and it’s a fine showcase for veteran actors, Mirren, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich.
The story line concerns the attempts of a shadowy CIA trying to eliminate the retired black-ops agents for reasons that are not apparent at first. Of course, we know that our good guys are extremely dangerous and will not take this lying down. Of course, the “company” underestimates them.
No one does steely-eyed, dangerous individual with a soft heart better than Bruce Willis. As he stares down bad guys, I could certainly believe that he could kick a** from here to there with quiet efficiency. Willis portrays Frank Moses who’s carrying on a little phone flirtation with Sarah at the government pension phone bank, played by the wonderful Mary-Louise Parker. By the way, no one does internal dialogue externalized better than Parker. The action starts when a team of operatives, amazingly inept, show up at Frank’s suburban house one night to assassinate him. I say inept because you’re going to need more than grenades, machine guns, and rocket launchers to put away a guy like Frank. Frank then sets out, with Sarah reluctantly in tow, to warn his fellow retirees that they may also be targets, and to fight back.
No one does “loony” better than John Malkovich, who plays Marvin Boggs, a twitchy, paranoid ex-op who was the victim of 11 years’ worth of government LSD experiments. Malkovich is obviously having a great time with this part. No one does aging-with-dignity better than Morgan Freeman who portrays Joe Matheson, now living in a nursing home but who has a few good moves left in him. And no one does elegant better than Helen Mirren who plays Victoria, but this time she gets to show off her lethal side as an on-the-shelf assassin who still takes on the occasional hit to fight off the boredom of retirement.
Frank’s CIA nemesis, William Cooper, is well-acted by Karl Urban as a man who may or may not be willing to do anything to advance his career. Brian Cox almost steals the show as Ivan Simanov, a former adversary who has a history with Victoria and may now be an ally. Richard Dreyfuss plays Alexander Dunning, gleefully announcing “I’m the bad guy!”, as a wealthy and powerful business tycoon who’s supporting a shady presidential candidate. The smarmy Vice President running for President is well-acted by Julian McMahon as an all style-no- substance coward. One real highlight is the 93-year-old Ernest Borgnine, looking and sounding amazingly fit, as Henry, “The Records Keeper.”
Of course, there are some cheesy moments, but who cares? It’s all fun. As I said before, the opponents are consistently bad shots while the heroes never miss. Would you expect anything less? There are impossible situations and not-survivable fights, but that’s the nature of the genre. All in all, it’s 111 minutes of escapist fun. So go along for the ride -- you won’t regret it.