“Red” makes a good case for gray power
Call it the film equivalent of the “Traveling Wilbury’s.” “Red” is a sly caper film that boasts an Oscar laden, all-star veteran cast yet is anything but old and tired. Thankfully, it has more in common with the ensemble cool of “Ocean’s Eleven” than the geezer-got-a-gun silliness of last summer’s ” The Expendables”. Graphic novel adaptations rarely feature AARP card carrying actors, nor are they this smart and accessible- not just a coincidence.
Solid as usual Bruce Willis (the least interesting character here -likely by design) is Frank, a lonely retired government agent who feigns lost pension checks so he has an excuse to call Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker a delightfully deadpan dish) a friendly- voiced social security employee. When a death squad is sent to eliminate Frank he sets out to save Sarah by kidnapping her, and the fun really begins as Frank decides to get the old gang of covert assassins together.
Much like this year’s underappreciated “Knight and Day” Frank and Sarah’s goofy chemistry works but the main attraction is the hip vibe stirred up by Morgan Freeman as a cool retirement home convalescent who can’t wait to get the “band” back together, Helen Mirren as a tough as nails flower arranger with an itchy trigger finger, Brian Cox as her former adversary/lover and John Malkovich, eccentric as ever as a paranoid swamp dweller.
One element that distinguishes “Red” is the somewhat credible gravity of the taut action sequences-our heroes actually get shot, in one case fatally, and yet the film stays true to its campy overtures.
When the tables get turned on the designated villain in a gray suit bureaucrat (suitably dour but likeable Karl Urban) the stakes seem real, if only for a moment. Then “Red” gets back to the business of celebrating its “fun with guns” quotient (and proving to be the attitudinal opposite of the gloomy and glee-free “Salt”). In the trustworthy hands of these graying icons-“Red” is proof that no one with real talent is expendable.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language.