I suppose it would be more accurate that they bring guns to a knife-fight and then laugh about it. RED is none other than Retired, Extremely Dangerous, a movie about aging covert operatives who appear to be targeted for forceful extra-retirement by some very well connected people. Loosely inspired by Warren Ellis’ graphic novels of the same name, this movie takes those books’ themes and runs with them, delivering in a huge way. A few names you’ll recognize own the movie’s screen with their presence: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Karl Urban, and Mary-Louise Parker. They’re maybe kind of a big deal, and they totally make the movie.
The movie’s jokes aren’t the freshest bunch around, with most of them revolving around the age and presumed infirmities of the now retired g-men and assassins, but the actors in question really make them shine. There’s an awkward (and kind of uncomfortable) romance between Bruce Willis’ Frank Moses and Mary-Louise Parker’s Sarah Ross, but it’s clearly supposed to feel that way and the two of them pull it off exceptionally well. Watching the interplay between them, as Sarah tries to convince Frank that maybe he should just be nice to some of the people that he’s talking to, is great.
In fact, I really like Mary-Louise Parker’s character. Ms Ross works at a call center handling pension accounts, and desperately wants some form of adventure in her life. She compulsively reads trashy spy romance novels, and talks about them on the phone with Mr Moses. She is the everywoman who lends perspective to the rest of the movie, keeping us aware of how terrifically over the top all the rest of the action-movie flair really is.
The movie as a whole simply has a very deep sense of style. It holds on to that style throughout, alternately playing up the comedy or the action as you watch the conflict slowly spreading from the smaller incident that starts it into the big confrontations towards the end. And while it’s not an especially forward-thinking movie, I appreciate Helen Mirren as the most terrifying incarnation of Martha Stewart ever. She makes a happy contrast to the competent but out-of-her-depth Ms Ross.
I keep wanting to write about all of the fun and cool scenes that happen later on in the movie, to tell you about how much fun they are, how ridiculous they are, and how well they follow through on the promise of the movie. But I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I’ll just say this: RED is an excellently made comedic action movie, with delightful performances from a host of highly skilled actors to take it from being a passable summer film to being one of those action movies that you’ll come back to and watch again and again.
And guess what? RED 2 is coming out in a few days! If it’s anything like the first one, this is going to be great.