Nowadays, action movies don’t seem to be limited to young, hip stars. In fact, several action romps in the last few months have been filled with senior citizens. The Expendables united all the shoot-em-up stars of the last few decades, while Machete pit 66-year-old Danny Trejo against Steven Seagal and Robert De Niro. The elderly have always had something to teach us, and now they are schooling the young in how to rack up a body count. Now, in Red, the Retired and Extremely Dangerous get to show up the whippersnappers in the CIA.
CIA legend Frank Moses is now living a hum-drum existence, which is only livened up by phone chats with Social Security case worker Sarah. But when a black ops unit is sent to kill Frank, he takes Sarah with him as he tries to stay alive. He also tracks down the rest of his former squad, which has also been targeted by the CIA. With help from the ailing Joe, strung out Marvin, and lethal old lady Victoria, Frank looks to stay one step ahead of the agency, and find out why they’re being targeted before its too late.
Like with The Expendables, the main hook of Red is the sight of aging actors shooting up the bad guys. However, while The Expendables was drenched in action nostalgia, Red has less conventional old action stars, save for Bruce Willis. But take away the age factor, and the movie is like any other about retired assassins in one last fight. Since this is based on a DC graphic novel, however, they have more room to get wild and crazy – or as crazy as they can get in a PG-13 format.
Director Robert Schwentke, and writers Jon and Erich Hoeber, amp up the action and banter in an equal measure. On the action front, Schwentke shoots some choice moments, particularly in a shootout at an airport, and in a hand-to-hand fight between Frank and his CIA purser. But Red is just as much of a banter movie, as these aging action stars are more verbal than the likes of Stallone, Trejo and Statham. With characters like Marvin and Victoria, a romantic pair like Frank and Sarah, and a share of special guest stars, the back-and-forths are at a premium.
Still, like many other movies, Red doesn’t hit the bullseye as much as it should. Aside from the concept of old assassins shooting things up, the film is basically a typical action ride, with all that that entails. Since it is a PG-13 movie, they can’t be all that over the top, so it might seem a little tamer by comparison.
With these kind of movies, they are best enjoyed when they’re so bad that they’re good, or when they’re actually good on their own merits. Red never reaches the “so bad” mark, but it is hit and miss in the “good” category, which makes it more disposable either way.
But Schwentke and the Hoebers lean on the cast of Reds to make up for any weaknesses. Although Bruce Willis is the only veteran action star in the bunch, he has been prone to sleepwalking and not showing much energy in recent years. Yet Willis actually gets to show some life here, particularly with Mary Louise Parker in her return to the big screen. Morgan Freeman has less to do, as they focus more on the oddness of John Malkovich and Helen Mirren as assassins. Making Malkovich more out there than usual, and giving Mirren a lot of guns, is enough of a hook on its own – although perhaps more could have been put into it. Karl Urban, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss and Rebecca Pidgeon hit their supporting marks, with room for even Ernest Borgnine as well.
Red isn’t the most successful violent movie from the last week with a bunch of old cinematic friends, as Jackass 3D took that title at the box office. Yet this violent, comedic escapade is easier to watch, and easier to laugh at without squirming. Some parts are better to laugh at than others, and considering the elements involved, more of it likely should have stuck the landing. But although it may fade away from the memory faster than it should, Red offers a fair share of laughs and shootouts in the meantime.