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RED (2010)

In a world filled with aging action stars from the 80s, where uncommon men are menaced by uncommon dangers, one man will have the courage to stand up for his right to peacefully co-exist with his average suburban neighbors, to quietly draw his pension and not have people trying to kill him at every turn. That man… is Bruce Willis. And somebody just pissed him off.

RED is an action comedy film loosely inspired by the three-issue comics miniseries of the same name created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. It stars Bruce “Die Hard” Willis, Morgan “The Shawshank Redemption” Freeman, Mary-Louis “Boys on the Side” Parker, John “Con Air” Malkovich, Helen “Teaching Mrs. Tingle” Mirren, and Karl “The Bourne Supremacy” Urban.

Frank Moses (Willis) wants nothing more than to live peacefully in retirement, but he has grown lonely. To remedy this, he calls up Sarah (Parker), a customer service representative working at the office in Kansas City that handles his pension, using the conceit that his check is late but actually tearing up the first one that comes each month. However, his previous life as a black ops CIA agent soon comes back to bite him when a hit squad shows up and tries to kill him, shooting the hell out of the front of his house in the process, but managing to completely miss Frank. At least it wasn’t for lack of effort. Frank is aging but still sharp, and he kills the hit squad. How? He’s GODDAMN BRUCE WILLIS, that’s how. Realizing that whoever sent them likely tapped his phone, he goes to Kansas City to kidnap protect Sarah, dragging her along as he rounds up his old black ops team, likewise pseudo-retired, to find out who would want to kill him and why, journeying into Frank’s shadowy past and that of the people he used to work with. In the meantime, CIA agent William Cooper (Urban) has also been assigned to hunt down and kill Moses, apparently not aware of what happened to the other eleven guys. Action, explosions, and Bruce Willis kicking ass ensue.

I had never heard of this movie before I watched it, but I recognized many of the stars and decided to give it a shot, figuring it would at least be a good popcorn movie. Within the first twenty minutes, I was pleasantly surprised. This tongue-in-cheeck action-comedy is delightfully over-the-top with its action sequences, stunts, car chases, and batting about of action movie conventions, conspiracy theories, and espionage story elements. You get things like a conspiracy theorist who turns out to be right 90% of the time and lives in a car trunk that actually leads down to an elaborate underground base, a retired badass with advanced liver cancer that gets his jollies making the shapely caretaker at his retirement home adjust the rabbit ear antennae on his TV, plots within plots within double-crosses, minor background characters suddenly trying to kill the heroes, and shit getting blown up just to have shit blow up.

Bruce Willis as Moses is casually deadpan about how he handles things, like stepping out of a car that’s just been sent into a spin by being rammed by an SUV – while it’s still spinning – and using his fists and his wits to beat the everloving HELL out of countless mooks. I’d seen elements of this during Live Free or Die Hard, but here he’s distilled down to pure badassery. John Malkovich as the prescient but off-kilter Boggs is the sort of paranoid gun nut that would have Burt Gummer telling him to get off decaf, and Helen Mirren as Victoria is an entertaining paradox: a soft-spoken British woman who will save your bacon by throwing a hunting knife into someone’s throat while at the controls of a tripod-mounted Gatlin gun, and then invite you back to her place for tea and cookies, and that cut looks like it might need stitches, let me take care of that for you, dear.

So. Action. Comedy. Conspiracies. Explosions. Fight scenes. If you like your movies big and manly, the sort that don’t take themselves too seriously, I highly recommend RED. It’s a surprisingly smart little action-comedy that will leave you cheering for more.

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