Still got it.
Image: E1 Entertainment
Like fellow action star Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis is starting to acknowledge his age. However, while Stallone surrounded himself with genre staples dourly wondering whether they’ll make it back from decimating a small army in The Expendables, Willis stars in Red, which features a vastly overqualified cast of thespians having a great deal of fun with a variety of costumes, locations, and heavy weaponry.
Willis plays Frank Moses, a recently retired CIA operative whose only respite from his boring new life is chatting to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), the phone operator for the bank that sends his pension cheques. But when the CIA decide to get rid of Frank, he and Sarah must dodge the agency’s killers and their top man Cooper (Karl Urban), and reassemble his old friends Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich), and Victoria (Helen Mirren).
There’s nothing in Red that’s particularly new or innovative. But that’s fine. Because when your film makes good and frequent use of an on-form Malkovich and features Dame Helen Mirren firing heavy weaponry while wearing a ball-gown, you’re pretty much guaranteed good will. For the most part, Red lives up to its promise to be a bright, breezy, fun action film. Director Robert Schwenke handles the action scenes well enough, staging one particularly brutal fight between Willis and Urban that frankly pushes the 12A boundary.
The cast all seem to be happy to be there. Willis does downbeat and doe-eyed, Malkovich has a blast as the LSD-frazzled Marvin, while Freeman is under-used but has good chemistry with Mirren, who is happily in on the joke. Meanwhile Parker (TV’s Weeds) has never been used better on the big screen, her giddy excitement contrasting well with Willis. The quality of the supporting cast is also impressive. Veterans Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine, and Brian Cox all show up with big grins and twinkles in their eyes, while Urban (Star Trek) and Rebecca Pidgeon (Mrs. David Mamet) shoulder the dour seriousness.
The script, based on Warren Ellis’ graphic novel, could have used a bit more work, but Schwenke’s brisk direction and the enthusiastic performances lift the film when it sags. The romance between Moses and Sarah is nicely played, although the supposed passion between Victoria and Russian spy-master Ivan (Cox) is dead in the water, mainly because Mirren acts like Cox is utterly unappealing. The explanation for the CIA targeting Moses is fairly silly but there’s a lingering impression that no one involved really cares about it that much. They’re too busy enjoying each other’s company.
It’s disposable fun, with entertaining performances and Helen Mirren with a machine gun.