Movie ReviewsRating: 4 of 5 yaps


“Red” is an agreeable piffle, a fun action/comedy that’s silly without being moronic. When I found out it was about retired CIA agents being hunted down by their former agency, I immediately thought a better title would have been “Old Spies Like Us.”

“Red” actually stands for “Retired and Extremely Dangerous” — the designation given to characters played by Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. They range in age from Willis’ Frank Moses, who’s probably in his mid-50s, to Freeman’s Joe Matheson, who’s 80 and dying of liver cancer to boot.

Freeman is aged up convincingly and looks a bit frail, but Willis is lean and sleek, and still appears capable of laying down some serious hurt. Why would the CIA forcibly retire someone seemingly still in his prime? The question is never asked or answered, but this is not the sort of movie to dally with logistics.

The film is based on a graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, though director Robert Schwentke and screenwriter siblings Jon and Erich Hoeber ditch the gritty tone for a light fun ‘n’ games feel. The comic book centered on Frank, but the movie adds new characters to make it an ensemble.

Malkovich plays Marvin Boggs, a wild ex-agent hiding out in the Florida swamps, whose paranoia about the government spying on him is tempered by the fact that he actually was secretly drugged with daily doses of LSD. Marvin has a nice bit where he squares off gunslinger-style with an opponent wielding a rocket launcher, and he shoots the missile out of the air.

Mirren is a delight as Victoria, a British retiree who breaks up her routine of gardening and cross-stitching with the occasional assassination contract. Mirren is kittenish and playful, and hell on wheels behind the eyesight of a large-caliber rifle.

Joe, meanwhile, fritters away his waning days in a New Orleans retirement home, ogling the nurses.

Frank lives in drab suburbia, putting up Christmas decorations simply because that’s what his neighbors do. He receives monthly pension checks from the government that he rips up so he can call the accounting department to complain that they never arrived. This allows him to speak with Sarah, a worker drone with dreams of an exciting life.

Frank is sweet on her and longs for a normal life — until a squad of black-ops types turn up at his home and try to kill him.

Sarah is played by Mary Louise-Parker in a turn so vibrant and likeable that it doesn’t occur to us that her character is completely unnecessary to the story. After being kidnapped by Frank — he figures if the government is gunning for him, they’ll target Sarah, too — she spends most of the movie literally standing around in the background while Frank, Victoria, Joe and Marvin ply their violent trade.

The plot is a twisting affair that you need not pay much attention to — something to do with some nasty business down in Guatemala long ago. It’s just an excuse to set up action scenes and humorous encounters.

Other figures in the mix include Richard Dreyfuss as a wicked arms dealer; Brian Cox as Frank’s old Russian adversary; and Karl Urban as a young CIA agent tasked with taking down Frank, and finds himself getting schooled.

“Red” reminded me a bit of “Sneakers,” a 1992 caper with Robert Redford about a bunch of washed-up, written-off spooks who get together for a new job. Both are well-made escapist entertainment, signifying nothing other than a good time.

4 Yaps

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22 Responses to “Red”

  1. Sean Sonnenschein says:

    This is a fun to watch movie with some great actors in it as an in tune ensemble. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this and highly recommend it. Bruce Willis put in another excellent performance. One thing about him is that he doesn’t play Bruce Willis in his movies but actually gets into the character. Now, where is the sequel to "The Last Boy Scout" We know that Satan Claus is out there.

  2. Danielle says:

    The local paper did not rate this very high, so I didn’t really expect much. But what a pleasant surprise! It was a very funny action movie without any hint of camp. Bruce Willis played his part very well. But John Malkovich and Helen Mirren made my movie experience. Very funny!

  3. Jennifer Suskovich says:

    I was pleasantly surprised by this film. My husband was looking forward to seeing it, but I had my doubts. This film kept my interest and was amusing. The ensemble cast all played very convincing characters. I would recommend RED to anyone that enjoys action/comedy movies!

  4. Sean Sonnenschein says:

    Another Bruce Willis film that I thought he was great in. Now, where’s my sequel to the Last Boy Scout.

  5. Julie Wakley says:

    This is by far the funniest movie I’ve seen this fall. The movie totally belonged to John Malkovich! The rest of the cast held their own as well, but John really stole the show.

  6. Brandy says:

    I thought this was one of those movies that was going to be horrible or awesome.It was terrific!

  7. tracie says:

    I loved this movie! I enjoyed all of the legendary characters and the action in this movie too….

  8. tracie says:

    I enjoyed this movie…I loved all of the legendary characters in this movie..good action too…

  9. Nikki says:

    I didnt win passes to see it so I had to pay and although I went during matinee hours it was well worth it. Good Movie!

  10. Loved this movie !!!! Go See IT !!!!

  11. Sandi Mojzuk says:

    Don’t know what there is about Bruce Willis, maybe like they said in the movie – hard or tough on the outside but gooey on the inside. This movie was great. Just goes to show the oldies can be pretty darn good and there were a lot of oldies in this one. I actually smiled thru the whole movie.

  12. Jerry Bane says:

    Certainly the best action comedy of the year. With this great cast of characters, the laughs just kept coming.

  13. Lara says:

    Saw this last night with the other contest winners. It was very entertaining. No, the plot didn’t really matter. It was true that everyone was laughing at a lot of it. I’d classify it as an action comedy with a few unnecessary serious moments thrown in. I disagree that Mary-Louise Parker’s character did nothing. She was shown using her wit and smarts on several occasions when heavy-handed action was inappropriate. Much of the movie is predictable, but what commercial movie isn’t these days. Definitely worth seeing in the theater for the action sequences.

  14. We saw this movie last night! What a fun action packed movie!~ I rate it 4-5 Yaps. Everyone had a great time, it was a packed theater and most were laughing so hard they almost fell out of their seats!
    It was great to see Bruce Willis in a different format, even though he was still the shoot them up king!!!!

  15. Gina Fox says:

    When Mr. Lloyd wrote this in his RED review "The plot is a twisting affair that you need not pay much attention to — something to do with some nasty business down in Guatemala long ago" – He really means this. I saw this last night and couldn’t figure out what the heck had happened in Guatamala, but I didn’t really care. The movie was hilarious and the acting was great. I love it, there was only one thing I would change about it – but I won’t get into that as it would be a spoiler!

  16. Mike B says:

    Hoping to see it tonight! Thanks for the review, I was hoping this would be a good one.

  17. Robert Baumann says:

    Two thumbs way up!!!!!!! Go see this movie!
    Totally awesome!!

    Bob Baumann

  18. gwinjay says:

    I can hardly wait to see Red now, will see it tomorrow thanks to you

  19. I am so looking forward to seeing this movie tonight. I will come back and give my review.

  20. Steve B says:

    Seeing this over the weekend. Thanks for the review that sets up the characters yet doesn’t spoil too much about the film. It seems like it might be along the lines of the kind of humor we saw in ‘The Whole Ten Yards’, even having their own Sarah in the role played by Amanda Peet, yet with more people getting shot of course.

  21. Nick Rogers says:

    I wanted to see this anyway, but your "Sneakers" comparison puts it over the top for me.