Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Morgan Freeman
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language.
Every so often, a film comes out in the fall that takes me back to summer, the traditional season of the big action movie. “Red” is one of those films, and I have to wonder why it was held for release until so late in the year, because it is a summer action flick if ever I saw one.
It has one of those straight-line plots where the twists don’t so much change its course as let you see a bit further ahead. Retired CIA ops agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) has a simple life. He works out, relaxes, and shreds his pension checks so he has an excuse to call beautiful Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) and ask for replacements. They’ve grown quite fond of each other, though they’ve never met, so when a team shows up one morning to kill Frank, he knows they’ll go after her next. Soon he’s rounding up his old team, who are also being targeted, to help figure out what is going on.
His team includes Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), who is a little crazy but impossibly good at what he does; Victoria (Helen Mirren), who is beautiful and one of the best wet-work assets in the business (sure, she’s retired, but she takes freelance jobs now and then to keep life interesting); and Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), who’s older than any of them and still the one to call when you need information dug up.
This is not an intellectual film. It’s funny, has some fantastic stunts, and is packed with gunfights and suspenseful sequences involving our heroes up against impossible odds. Is it realistic? No. But nobody goes to see a movie like this expecting realism.
We go expecting humor, good chemistry among the cast, and a reasonably tight plot with good pacing. “Red” delivers on all fronts. Willis has been making action flicks for over two decades, and it’s obvious here that he keeps coming back to the genre because it’s fun. Malkovich, Mirren, and Freeman seem like less obvious action choices, but they work with Willis perfectly and their comedic timing is effortlessly spot-on.
The stunts and action sequences are just over the top enough to be fun without descending into complete idiocy. There’s hand-to-hand combat, sniper fire, straight-up gunfights, and even a scene in which one character draws a handgun while one of the baddies loads a rocket launcher, then shoots the rocket in midair to blow it up and take out the baddie. The scenes and characters are put together with just the right light touch. It’s impressive that this is director Robert Schwentke’s first straight-up action flick. He does have the advantage of working with a stellar cast, but even so. This is good work, and I’ll be paying attention to see what he does in the future.
If you’re looking for an action movie that will make you laugh without making you think too much, “Red” is the place to go. It’s worth seeing on the big screen if you like explosions and gunfights, too. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for intellectual stimulation and character development, look elsewhere.