Bruce Willis as Frank Moses
Morgan Freeman as Joe Matheson
John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs
Helen Mirren as Victoria
Karl Urban as William Cooper
Mary-Louise Parker as Sarah
Brian Cox as Ivan Simanov
Richard Dreyfuss as Alexander Dunning

Directed by Robert Schwentke

Bruce Willis and an excellent cast make “RED” a film well worth checking out, but expect the movie to stretch reality a bit in the name of laughs.

This film is based on the DC Comic by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.

Frank Moses is a retired Cold War spy. Having left behind his life of action and intrigue, he finds it hard to settle into the monotony of everyday life. He’s so starved for attention that he tears up his retirement checks just so that he can chat on the phone with Sarah at the pension office. The two develop a friendship and for the first time in his life, Frank finds a glimmer of happiness.

All of that changes when a hit squad mysteriously shows up at Frank’s house. In an instant all of Frank’s training kicks back in and he defends himself with guns blazing. Knowing Sarah might be a target as well, he races to her aid. But Frank is going to need a lot of help from his old spy friends in order to keep from getting killed and find out who was behind the hit.

“RED” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language.

What Worked:
I never read the comic that this film is based on, but I was on board for the concept. The idea of Cold War spies coming out of retirement to kick butt is a great idea. It’s kind of like “James Bond – The Golden Years.”

What makes this movie so much fun is the cast. Bruce Willis is excellent as Frank Moses. He’s equally convincing as a retired man living a life of monotony or a world class spy. There’s a scene where one moment he’s an old man shuffling around his house in a bathrobe, then a moment later he’s snapping a hitman’s neck. It’s a great transition and that contrast offers up a lot of comic potential that Willis makes the most of.

Mary-Louise Parker plays Sarah, Frank’s love interest and the everyday woman who is swept up into this spy world. She holds her own with all of these acting veterans and she’s a lot of fun. Whether she’s chatting about romance novels over the phone with Frank or exasperated with him for kidnapping her, Parker offers a lot of laughs. Unfortunately, the more characters that are added to the cast, the less she has to do. But she’s still one of the highlights of the film.

One of the most notable members of the cast is Helen Mirren as Victoria. Imagine if Martha Stewart picked up a machine gun and started blowing away commandos, you have an idea of what her performance is like. In a film full of contrasts, this is one of the most fun and most memorable. And the longer the movie goes, the more Mirren ramps up the action and the size of the gun she’s shooting.

John Malkovich is also fun as Marvin Boggs. He’s a psychotic ex-spy and conspiracy theorist who may just be right about all of his conspiracies. Malkovich plays a rather convincing lunatic and when he’s put up against the other cast members he generates a lot of laughs.

Rounding out the cast are Morgan Freeman as Joe Matheson, Karl Urban as William Cooper, Brian Cox as Ivan Simanov, and Richard Dreyfuss as Alexander Dunning. All of these guys bring memorable moments to the film. There’s one scene where you sit back and realize that Dreyfuss, Willis, Freeman, and Malkovich are all playing a scene together and you think, “Wow! This is a great cast.” If you’re a fan of any of these actors or actresses, you’ll want to check this out.

What Didn’t Work:
After watching “RED,” I realized that my expectations were not in line with the final product. I was expecting an action movie with some comedy in it. This was more of slapstick comedy with some action in it. While a lot of the movie is somewhat reality based, it has no problem with venturing into the realm of being over-the-top. A lot of the action defies reality. John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs does a lot of extremely silly stuff. A scene where Frank breaks into a secure facility is completely unrealistic. This all culminates in an outrageous finale that, if this was the real world, would have concluded with all of our heroes being quite dead. So if you’re expecting more realism, you may be disappointed. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

As fun as the movie is, it never quite achieves greatness. Yes, the comedy is funny but most of it is chuckle-inducing rather than being laugh out loud hilarious. On the action side, there are really only two memorable moments. The rest is just passable. Still, it’s fun.

I’ll also add that I didn’t think Morgan Freeman was used nearly enough in this movie. I would have liked to have seen him with significantly more screentime than he has.

The Bottom Line:
So is it fun and worth checking out? Yes. But it’s not going to be considered a classic action movie or a classic comedy. This is mainly about seeing all the actors do their magic on screen together.