Red is probably a better name than my less marketable name for this movie: Retired Geezers in Love. Red is actually an acronym for Retired and Extremely Dangerous. And speaking of geezers, who in Hollywood more falls into the extreme geezer crowd than Ernest Borgnine, age 94. In Red he plays Henry, the super sensitive records keeper apparently tied to his desk in a vault in the bowels of the CIA.
You have to look hard to find a younger person in this movie. So you will have to settle for middle-aged people instead: Mary-Louise Parker (age 46) as Sarah Ross and Karl Urban (age 38) as agent William Cooper. In case you are wondering, the CIA is full of agents who make James Bond look amateurish. One of them is Frank Moses (Bruce Willis, age 56, and looking much older) who is unhappily retired in Cleveland where nothing interesting ever happens. He is reduced to making telephone friends with a woman named Sarah in Kansas City, who from her desk on an open floor of an enormous insurance company makes sure that Frank gets his annuity check every month. Frank keeps tearing up his check so he has an excuse to call and chat with her. He is so enamored with her that he starts reading the same trashy romance novels that she is reading. Eventually he decides to visit her in Kansas City, pretending to be there on business.
Before Frank can do so, some very lethal spooks decide he must die and stage a 3 a.m. attack on his house. This would mean quick death for most of us, but is not a problem if you are a CIA RED agent. His house may be riddled and crumbling from all the automatic weapon fire, but Frank can easily dodge all these bullets, kill all of his attackers and high tail it to Kansas City.
The introductory firefight scene is just one of many over the top attack scenes in this movie. Because Frank is being pursued by his own agency, he doesn’t have time to explain to Sarah when they first meet what’s up, so with many apologies he kidnaps her then hightails it to New Orleans with her. There he meets up with another retired CIA agent Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman) who is slowly dying of liver cancer in a retirement home. It turns out that if you are RED, and in particularly if you participated in a CIA raid in Guatemala in 1981, a group of CIA operatives led by agent Cooper/Urban need to kill you as quickly as possible. The other unhappily retired ex-agents include the still hot Helen Mirren (age 65) as Victoria, John Malkovich (age 57) as agent Boggs and even a high level Russian operative, Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox, age 64), who is in love with his ex enemy Victoria.
The convoluted plot has something to do with an ambitious Vice President wanting to get rid of everyone who could connect him to the CIA mission in Guatemala, but seems to be orchestrated by the nefarious Alexander Dunning (Richard Dreyfuss, age 63). Sarah/Parker gets to come along for the ride. She discovers that being kidnapped is not so bad. In fact, she enjoys pretending to be a CIA agent a whole lot more than answering questions at an insurance company.
So this movie did plenty to help pay the acting guild dues of its aging cast members. Red turns out to be a fun and quirky comedy that will more than hold your attention, and is surprisingly well executed by director Robert Schwentke (age 43). I too would find retirement boring if life as a CIA agent is anything close to what is portrayed in this movie.
Red is pure comedic action-adventure entertainment, of the sardonic and wisecracky kind. So it is perhaps fitting then that Bruce Willis plays its central character, because there is not a scene in it without his smirk. I’m kind of glad I stopped watching Bruce Willis movies because his trademark smirk is really getting old. However, I am glad to see any movie with Mary-Louise Parker in it, who makes my own middle-aged lust embers glow raging hot. Everyone in the cast is obviously having fun with the movie. You get the feeling they were all quite sad when the movie wrapped up.
Red turns out to be a difficult movie to dislike and a really fun way to spend 111 minutes. Particularly if you are approaching your Polident years, you should see Red because it is one of only a handful of movies since Cocoon featuring principally old actors, who, for the most part, prove they are still full of great comedic talent.
Aside from Willis’s annoying smirk, which you may find charming instead of annoying, there is not much to diss about this fun movie. However, other than its older cast and its fine execution, it is not particularly notable as a movie, except within its peculiar genre where it stands out. It’s a fun B+ of a movie, much more fun than, say, the remake of Get Smart. You don’t have to inhabit the Polident generation to enjoy it.
3.2 on my four-point scale.