RED Review

Frank Moses is lonely. His days are long and uneventful. He eats soup by himself at night and only speaks to his neighbors when picking up the mail in the morning. He forgets to put Christmas decorations up until everyone else in the neighborhood has and the highlight of his day is ripping up his pension check so that he can talk to his representative in Kansas City, a woman he’s spoken to countless times but has never met: Sarah.

Frank Moses is also a retired CIA operative. And he’s extremely dangerous.

“RED” is an action-adventure movie in the style of the Clint Eastwood film “Space Cowboys.” That movie was about octogenarians going into outer space to fix a broken satellite. This one’s about giving Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Brian Cox an excuse to shoot some high-powered assault rifles and react (as only Oscar-nominated actors can) to stuff blowing up real good. And it’s incredibly fun.

The meat of the film is that some shady figures are out to kill Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and company for pretty unspecified reasons (something about an op in Nicaragua that needs covering up) so the team has to get back together for one last go-around before their ex-employers will leave them alone for good. Which basically means about an hour and half of action scenes and a half-hour of plot, pretty much the perfect ratio for a good brainless action movie.

And what action it is. Willis kills about eight men within the first fifteen minutes in a scene that’s exciting and oozes cool. He only has one pistol; they have multiple machine guns. He’s wearing a bath robe and slippers; they have kevlar and black ski masks. By the end of it, they’re all dead and Willis is rushing off to Kansas City to rescue Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) before she’s targeted.

Each actor is given a scene to fulfill their action-hero dreams. Freeman gets physical in an interrogation. Malkovich duels with a woman wielding a rocket launcher. Mirren guns down henchmen with a sniper rifle and mounted machine gun. It’s everything you’ve come to expect from the trailers, but surprisingly entertaining to see two worlds collide. It’s the “Betty White” effect: seeing an old, generally well-mannered and polite individual acting against type whether it’s spewing curse words, drinking excessively, or killing waves of faceless henchman. Always brings a smile to the face.

Morgan Freeman’s character has a moment where he finds it ironic that even though he’s fought in Vietnam, done countless black op missions and killed hundreds of people, he’s going to die in a retirement home rather than riddled with bullets. It’s a small moment but a key one for the film. These ex-soldiers lost their relevance, and being hunted is confirmation that they still have some purpose to serve. It’s nice to see a film that allows aging actors to thrive in an industry that is perpetually obsessed with youth.

3.5/5

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