RED (2010) – Film Review

Freeman, Willis, Malkovich and Mirren - recognisable by their surnames alone - prepare to show the kids how it's done in this action comedy..

You’re wrinkly, you’ve got health issues and your age is higher than the calibre of your gun. So what’s a senior to do? Get a bigger gun, of course.

This is the philosophy which encapsulates RED (that would be Retired Extremely Dangerous for those still living in fear of Communism. Hey, it is the right age bracket). Boasting a stellar, seasoned (to put it politely) cast, this is in fact a pretty average action-comedy, but is enhanced by some enjoyable performances and fun dialogue.

Loosely inspired by the three-issue comic book series of the same name, RED follows the story of Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA assassin who gently falls in love with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a telephone operator at the Agency’s pensions department. However, Moses soon finds himself the subject of an assassination attempt by unknown perpetrators – and realises that Sarah is in danger too. So he rounds up his old gang for some kick-ass retaliation: the fanatical nut-job (John Malkovich); the wise guy (Morgan Freeman); and the ex-MI5 hitwoman (a deliciously tongue-in-cheek Helen Mirren).

Much more charming than Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables (which also starred Bruce Willis), RED offers a good dose of machine-gun action, with some light-hearted comedy and romance thrown in for good measure. As you’d expect, there’s an abundance of age-related gags (“Old man my ass!” – delivered by a typically quirky John Malkovich). The film provides entertaining performances all-round; including some not-to-be-overlooked support from its younger cast members Mary-Louise Parker and Karl Urban. Many, I’m sure, will enjoy watching Helen Mirren firing round after round from a Rambo-sized machine gun (who wouldn’t?). However, it is undeniably Malkovich – portraying the paranoid, slightly unhinged of the bunch (as if we’d expect anything less) – who provides the most laughs. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Brian Cox, although not exactly out of their comfort zones, are also well-cast in their roles.

Unfortunately, the script isn’t as sharp as it could have been, and the plot itself doesn’t offer anything new to the action-comedy genre. The laughs are often too little and too far apart, and the age gags become tired towards the end of the film. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable, if slightly conventional, action-comedy romp, which definitely isn’t to be taken seriously. So sit back in your armchair, slippers on and tea at hand, and let the old folks show you how it’s done.

Best performance: It’s a close call between John Malkovich and Helen Mirren.
Best scene: The show down between Marvin (Malkovich) and a female sniper.
Best line: ‘Old man my ass!’
Watch this if you liked: The A-Team, The Expendables.

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