Movie Review: Red
Length: 111 minutes
Release Date: October 15, 2010
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Stars: 4 out 5
When anything from a Marvel Comics title is adapted for the screen, there are usually superheroes involved, not unlike "The Avengers." Nobody has superpowers in "Red," however, but considering the age of many of the unlikely heroes of the film, the characters may as well have enhanced skills. These middle-aged and senior wonders manage to show younger generations a thing or two about action sequences while never losing a step due to their advanced age.
The film begins with Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA agent. He had been designated as RED (Retired-Extremely Dangerous) by his former employers. He is trying to live a simple life away from the madness of the CIA, but he unfortunately gets sucked back in when a group of bad guys decides that he needs to die for past transgressions. Thus he packs up and tries to recruit his old CIA pals, who are likely to be in danger too, to help him out.
Frank gets back in touch with Joe (Morgan Freeman), who never met a gun he didn't like. Marvin (John Malkovich) is an explosives expert who is paranoid beyond what any sane person should be. Besides, with people really pursuing him, his panic is probably not for naught. He exemplifies the saying, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you." These guys later team up with Victoria (Helen Mirren) and Alexander (Richard Dreyfuss), who have smaller roles that are still pivotal towards the end of the film.
Together, the merry band of retirees comes together to try and blow the dust off their skills and save their hides. There is plenty of comic relief in the film as each one spews one-liners while traversing the globe in their effort to try to stay one step ahead of not only the bad guys but also a relentless current CIA agent (Karl Urban) who wants to put an end to the madness. Though there are plenty of action sequences, audience members can also expect a lot of levity and fun that almost border on madcap at times. "Red" is one of those rare films that drama and adrenaline junkies alike will want to see.
Mirren is one of the standouts in this film, which is brimming over with quality actors, even if she doesn't show up until the second act. She makes a huge departure from her usual roles, this time playing a woman who gleefully chews scenery and bad guys with equal aplomb. She may also be hiding a secret about her retirement from MI6 (the British version of the CIA), a layer that Mirren doesn't forget to portray. Ever since winning the Oscar for her turn in "The Queen," Mirren has been identified with quieter roles. There is not much that is quiet about her Victoria, who shoots enough rounds of ammo to fill a small arsenal. Somehow, Mirren manages to do it with some dignity, even though her lethal character seems to enjoy her job almost too much.
Speaking of dignified, anyone who has seen a Morgan Freeman movie knows that his performances are always dignified, even if the character isn't. In this case, Freeman's Matheson is saddled with late-stage cancer, so much so that he isn't fully up to the job at hand. Nonetheless, he bravely does everything he can to help his old comrades, although he knows that his days are numbered. Though many of his scenes have a dramatic undertone, Freeman is obviously very aware of the overall pulpy tone of the film and seems to have fun with the comedy aspect while still giving off that trademark Freeman dignity that marks everything he does, even voiceovers and commercials.
The action and violence never get overly intense or bloody, probably in an effort to get a PG-13 rating as opposed to an R rating. Enough comedy is interspersed with the violent scenes, which never reach cartoonish levels. The intensity of the scenes is just enough to give action junkies a nice rush. It is not an easy balance to strike, but director Robert Schwentke does it well, showcasing the deft hand he displayed in "The Time Traveler's Wife," one of his previous directorial works. The tone, humor, and pace are decidedly different from anything Schwentke has ever done before, which shows his ability to branch out. Before any studio executives sign him to a big directing deal, they should see "Red" and sign him up to do a sequel first.