RED is a goofball action thriller matched by the wit and style of its ageing cast.

Bruce Willis plays a retired CIA agent living off government pension. As Frank Moses, the highlight of his lonely suburban life is when conversing with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a customer service agent handling Frank’s pension. By deliberately destroying his pension checks, Frank often uses this as an excuse to call Sarah, thus building on a platonic relationship. A nice little off-beat romantic comedy, right? Wrong! Common now, “Yippee-ka-yay” and all that jazz, this is Bruce Willis we are taking about. So anyway, one quiet evening, just before Frank retires for the night, a hit squad storms through his house but is unable to take him down. As it seems, Frank is Retired, but Extremely Dangerous (RED). Knowing that the hit squad must have watched his every move while tapping his phone calls, Frank heads towards Kansas City before his assailants can bait him with Sarah. Frank then re-assembles his former Black-ops team with the terminally ill Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), the paranoid Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) and former MI6 operative Victoria (Helen Mirren). Together, they learn that they are on a hit list having been involved in a secret mission in Guatemala dating back to 1981. With a CIA crack team led by William Cooper (Karl Urban) hot on their heels, Frank and his old buddies must now hold it together before facing an explosive showdown that involves the Vice-President himself.

For what it’s worth, this is a film that doesn’t try to be more than what it sets out to be – an entertaining action comedy. Speaking of action, what can you expect from old timers playing over the hill retired government spooks, right? Wrong Again! At 56, and as the tagline says, Willis still has it. So does 74 year old Freeman along with the Academy Award winning Helen Mirren. For the most part, action scenes are over the top, and in true Hollywood splendour, some scenes are almost ridiculous. Steeping out of a moving vehicle, lining up a shot and then emptying a clip before the vehicle stops spinning is as believable as a snow storm in the amazon. Then again, this is an action comedy after all. Sure enough, Malkovich steals the show while offering some hilarious moments through the film as a paranoid conspiracy theorist. As Marvin, he is insanely funny and brings his unique sarcasm in the form of funny one-liners. Adding on is Freeman with his usual wit and can literally slap you into laughter. Mary-Louise Parker is the unwitting victim in all this and humorously portrays the example of how cautious someone should be when wishing for something. Karl Urban on the other hand, is great as the determined CIA agent, but finds it hard to contain his native Kiwi accent towards the end. Then of course is the lovely and charming Mirren. She is an epitome of grace and screen charisma, even if her character wields the biggest guns in the film.

German director Robert Schwentke knows how to make an entertaining film. Known for his 2005 thriller Flightplan, Schwentke goes all out with RED and fires from all cylinders. Brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber’s script based on DC Comics characters is justified by this director while adding his own finesse to their work. At the end of it all this is a cloak and dagger and bullets blazing caper that pits together the CIA, KGB, MI6, and the Presidential Secret Service in one entertaining yet explosive farce.

Rating: ★★★☆☆


About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.