Movie Review: Red Proves Retirement Can Be an Explosive, Fun Time

Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Mary-Louise Parker keep things explosive and fun in this action-packed flick

By Peter Paras Oct 15, 2010 1:00 PMTags
Mary Louise Parker, Bruce Willis, RedFrank Masi/Summit Entertainment

Review in a Hurry: Bruce Willis and a team of "oldies" discover retirement can be fun if you take the occasional odd job. Their former careers were as super secret assassins, so kicking back means less shuffleboard, way more explosives. Who knew Helen Mirren would be all sorts of awesome with an Uzi? We did.

The Bigger Picture: Based on the Warren Ellis' graphic novel, Red stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. In a quickie opening, past-his-prime Frank Moses (Willis) spends his days flirting on the phone with social security worker Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker). But the flirting stops when a covert ops team arrives to put Frank into "permanent retirement." And that's when the hijinks and big stunt scenes begin because Frank is Retired and well, you know...

The story is gleefully straightforward. The real question is why would so many Academy Award winners like Mirren, Morgan Freeman and Ernest Borgnine would sign up for some barely known comic book adaptation. Put simply, because it's bloody fun. With so much enthusiasm being displayed by the actors, Red's energy is infectious.

As a sniper expert, Mirren is clearly having a good time not playing royalty, relishing the chance to be silver foxy with tons of firepower. John Malkovich is in "crazy mode" as an old rival whom Frank recruits. His scenery chewing is enjoyable and funny. Once again (like in Burn After Reading) he's a paranoid freak of the highest order, but much less angry. Freeman, who too often is cast as a sincere old guy who narrates, gets to play it loose. He's quite the rascal, hitting on women less than half his age while sporting that big grin of his. And Richard Drefyuss shows up for the sole enjoyment of getting slapped, a lot,  which is by definition, hilarious.

Director Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler's Wife) moves the film along at a nice pace. For a film based a comic book, Red is thankfully free of frenetic editing or over-saturated colors (à la The Losers). The focus is always on the characters.

The only down side is that the baddies are pretty forgettable. Karl Urban (Star Trek) and Rebecca Pidgeon (Heist) are the CIA reps out to get team Red, but they don't have much to do except sneer and scream, which gets old fast. Clearly, these kids need to slow their roll and chill out like the seasoned vets.

The 180—a Second Opinion: The cast is up for anything so it's a tad disappointing that much of the running time is spent hanging out with only Willis and Parker. Between the fun set pieces, we're stuck with the two as they flirt and try to avoid gunfire. They aren't bad, but Parker is hardly a true retiree—come to think of it, is Willis?