| DIDN’T MORGAN FREEMAN ALREADY PLAY A GUY NAMED RED?: Freeman and John Malkovich. |
IMAGE: Frank Masi
Twice this year—and endlessly throughout action-flick history—we’ve met super-soldiers, betrayed by their governments, blowing shit up to clear their names. First it was The Losers, followed by the breezy but clunky A-Team. Now the geezers follow The Expendables’ lead and give it a go in Red.
Turns out the AARP Team of Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich is as contrived as The A-Team. You know the drill: Retired CIA spook Willis is marked for death and spends two hours “getting the band back together” to kill people. Yet the biggest surprise of Red is how much fun the familiar can be. From its opening shootout to its final punch line, the action comedy plays conventions for laughs, with zingers and bullets spraying everywhere.
Most of the joy in Red (“retired, extremely dangerous”) comes from watching the cast let the ham juice fly. Willis is comfy as Frank Moses, a Bruce Willis-like retiree and badass. But where Willis rests on his familiar smirk, his castmates go gleefully off the chain. The hysterical Malkovich steals the show as a paranoid nutjob whose trigger-happy brain is addled from daily doses of LSD administered by the military. Mirren sports a sniper rifle as elegantly as she did Queen Elizabeth’s crown in a delightful change of pace that sees the acting royalty blasting away at thugs with an Uzi while dressed in evening finery. The great Brian Cox chomps on his W’s as a KGB agent, while Freeman and Ernest Borgnine get grins with minimal screen time.
Director Robert Schwentke goes against the grain by forgoing excess. Red’s action is fast and furious (this is, after all, a DC Comics adaptation), but the director relies on practical stunt work in his bombastic action scenes, highlighted by a great sequence in which the heroes play baseball with live grenades. Schwentke realizes the best special effect is a cast of award-winning dynamos allowed to let loose. Red is a big, stupid fiasco full of laughs and kinetic fun. The film is made in a familiar mold, but it’s a mold the flick bends into new shapes. They may be retired, but the seniors of Red are extremely entertaining. PG-13.