111 min., rated PG-13.
Whereas the violent comic-book movie "Kick-Ass" had profanity-spoutin' Hit-Girl, the equally comic-booky "RED" has the visual irony of Dame Helen Mirren opening fire with big, semi-automatic guns. It may be a gimmick, but a damn fine gimmick. That said, the enjoyably knowing, skillfully cast action-comedy "RED" (standing for “Retired Extremely Dangerous”) is like "Space Cowboys" with guns and explosions.
Old enough to be called “Grandpa,” Bruce Willis stars as Frank Moses, a bored and retired black-ops CIA analyst, who has a flirty over-the-phone relationship with a lonely Kansas City phone operator named Sarah (a loose and funny Mary-Louise Parker). Then after an assassination squad (conveniently) tries killing him, he flies to Kansas City and kidnaps the in-over-her-head Sarah. Not long after, the pair goes on the lam from bad guys and joins up with Frank's old gang of agents: Marvin (John Malkovich), an insanely paranoid victim of too many LSD experiments; Joe (Morgan Freeman), a wise old man in a nursing home, and the restless, royal housewife Victoria (Helen Mirren). They all come out of retirement.
Director Robert Schwentke gives "RED" a brisk pace, a tongue-in-cheek tone, and the two screenwriters bring it a quirky blend of humor. He also has the ability of making the action sequences smoother and livelier than most. Sure, it's one more hectic “let-get-the-gang-back-together” action movie based on another DC Comics graphic novel, and the plot—connected to a Guatemalan operation cover-up—doesn't always make sense.
But great casting really does make a difference, and the older cast still looks spry in their colorful spots and classes it up (from 43-year-old Parker to 93-year-old Ernest Borginine in a cameo as the C.I.A.'s records keeper). And although she's slighted by not showing for about an hour, Mirren gets to be a tough cookie here and even when shot, she shouts “Bugger!” in her white, elegant gown. Brian Cox and Richard Dreyfuss show up as well, respectively playing a Russian agent and a scummy businessman. They all may be slumming with the style-over-substance material at hand, but running around, having a blast, they're a hoot to watch.
Never mind that the Frank-Sarah chase scenes are awfully familiar of this summer's "Killers" and "Knight and Day," but it's less expendable than Sylvester Stallone's "The Expendables" and with that cast, "RED" makes for some silly fun.
Grade: B -
Grade: B -