“Looking For A Little Action.”
Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman
Synopsis: When his peaceful life is threatened by a high-tech assassin, former black-ops agent Frank Moses reassembles his old team in a last ditch effort to survive and uncover his assailants.
If you had no knowledge of Robert Schwentke’s RED before watching, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d tuned in to some twee rom-com as we watch impossibly young retiree Frank Moses (Bruce Willis – Striking Distance, Moonrise Kingdom) attempt to develop his phone relationship with pension administrator Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) by suggesting they meet up when he visits her home town. Later that night, though, Moses’ house is wrecked by a cadre of black-clad gunmen, all of whom fall immediate victim to his wrath, and RED immediately jumps from 2nd gear to 6th, where it remains for most of the remainder of its running time.
Moses is a retired secret agent (the film’s title is an acronym of his status: Retired – Extremely Dangerous) so not only is he capable of killing a number of masked intruders, he’s also savvy enough to realise he needs to move fast before back-up arrives. He also surmises that whoever wants him dead probably has the resources to trace all his contacts and will wonder about all those calls he’s been making to his pension administrator, and therefore heads directly to her home. Naturally, Sarah isn’t too thrilled to find him in her house and, when Frank’s suspicions that his pursuers will pay her a visit prove correct he has to force her into his car. He and the reluctant Sarah then embark on a mission to find out just who wants him dead and why, and he recruits a number of old – very old – former comrades to assist him.
Ok, it’s a stupid plot, and the story doesn’t give a damn about realism, but it’s also good natured and fast-moving, and has a keen sense of its own absurdness which prevents it from ever feeling forced or growing tiresome. Willis brandishes his trademark smirk with relish and is supported by the kind of prominent cast you’d never expect to find in a high-octane action-comedy-thriller, especially in the twilight of their careers. His sidekicks are Morgan Freeman (Nurse Betty, The Dark Knight Rises) who is passing his time ogling the behinds of the carers in his nursing home when he receives a visit from Moses, John Malkovich (Joan of Arc), a paranoid hermit living in an underground bunker in Florida, and Helen Mirren, a fellow retiree, whose dignified demeanour belies her past as a highly-trained assassin. It must have been something of a trick, getting the green-light for a movie in which the average age of the headline acts is 62, but the old hands rise to the occasion with barely suppressed glee as they run – or at least trot – around trading blows with the weight of the CIA, led by the comparatively youthful Karl Urban (Dredd), who at 38 is little more than a child. It all makes for a far-fetched but enjoyable mix.
(Reviewed 22nd September 2015)