Something about this film looked like “fun” – even though I don’t think I was among the intended audience. Obviously, that was its objective for its target audience but the maybe it had something to do with the explosive premise or in my case, more likely it had something to do with seeing Helen Mirren in something so out of her normal roles.
Since his retirement, life is mundane but idyllic for Frank Moses (Bruce Willis). The neighborhood is nice and rather than the exotic locales and excitement of his former life, a highlight is putting up Christmas decorations… and calling the government pension offices. His government issued check allows him to contact their offices with complaints of misdirection when in reality he is ripping up the checks. Little does the operator realize that all he is really doing is calling because he enjoys their conversations. Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker) has her plan for life all mapped out. She was going to travel the world… instead she is stuck in her crummy cubicle. The one bright spot in both Frank and Sarah’s otherwise routine existence are those conversations. Frank’s plans for a trip to finally meet Sarah go awry when his home is invaded by masked men with machine guns. Formerly a CIA agent, now a retired analyst, Frank is suddenly on their hit list, for no apparent reason. Knowing how the process all works, he gets to Sarah in Kansas City as quickly as he can since they will have already connected him to Sarah and the fact that she is a part of his life – plus he really likes her. Barely a moment to spare, the two escape with their lives, all the while with a meticulous hit man (Karl Urban) at their back.
Obviously, Frank cannot get out of this predicament alone, so he decides to recruit his former unit “RED” (or “Retired; Extremely Dangerous”). Gathering up that unit will take some quick thinking to outsmart those trying to find him. With Sarah under his protection he makes contact with the gang. Joe (Morgan Freeman) lives in a retirement community, while Marvin (John Malkovich) is semi-crazy and entraps all his visitors with cleverly disguised traps and, finally the weapons expert, Victoria (Mirren). Once the gang is all back together, they set out to uncover what secret will die with them.
When you blend comedy with an action-adventure, spy caper sort of movie, it takes a certain talent. Sometimes it fails miserably, sometimes it excels wonderfully. Red fits into the latter’s category. It was a blast! There isn’t the best balance since the movie is quite funny in the first half then the script turns slightly more serious in the second. What writers did do was give the comedy some unique kind of incredulous manner so that although you can’t quite believe it in its absurdity, at the same time there is a realistic comical ingenuity.
Once-in-a-blue moon, something does come along that maybe is a stretch from your usual viewing choices, but looks like too much fun to pass up. There was something about the trailer that spoke for itself without further prompting or “research.” Turns out this particular story is insane; funny, interesting and perhaps most unexpected, clever. Like most capers, we are expecting the usual letdown when the big mystery is unveiled but instead what I remember thinking when all is revealed was that the script was actually rather inventive for something that one thinks has so little potential. And indeed that is what goes with this little known film that did receive some acclaim from critics – something quite unusual. My idea of a good time and mainstream critics normally don’t gel so to have enjoyed this was a bit of a leap.
A slower start struggles to get the entire team together making the majority of the screen time belonging to Bruce and Mary. But this is one fantastic cast. Everyone brings their A-game. None more so than screen legend Helen Mirren (who doesn’t show up until an hour in *cries*), a woman who deserved more screen presence than she did; who else could pull off expertly using an automatic machine gun in a white evening gown? It would be really tough to describe the fun that ensues in the movie. Everyone is so different and I wouldn’t want to raise hopes to spoil the film anyway. Post end, there is one last snapshot of the gang on their next mission, with the promise of a sequel in the works (I am one fan who’d be thrilled at this prospect!); it shouldn’t be long before we’ll see “RED” in action again. Who’d have thought something so “common” could be such fun?