RED, which rather colourfully stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous is a knockabout action comedy starring a host of older actors who prove that blowing up bad guys is far more interesting than standard retirement activities. Forming part of a growing sub-genre of OAP actioners, RED is actually based on a limited comic book series by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner published by the DC Comics imprint Homage.
Former black ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is lonely. Retired from active duty he spends his time chatting to pension officer Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) on the phone until one day a hit squad raids his house. Realising they must have tapped his phone, he heads to Kansas City to protect Sarah and enlists the help of old colleagues Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) to discover who is behind the attacks while he is hunted by current CIA agent William Cooper (Karl Urban).
A loud, completely unsubtle and, in some cases, stupid plot RED gets by on the strength of the personalities on display. The trio of Freeman, Mirren and Malkovich all tackle the subject with suitable tongue-in-cheek bravado and it’s nice to have a film that isn’t endless showing young, cocky heroes and instead shows the older generation in a position of physical control. Bruce Willis does a decent job as the lead, but it’s becoming increasingly clear when he likes a project or when he’s just phoning it in for the money. RED is sadly one of the latter cases.
It is thanks then to Mary-Louise Parker that the central relationship works and while the ultra-handy OAPs are killing for fun, her straight woman keeps laughs coming with her reactions to the carnage. Not bad for the youngster of the piece. Zipping along at a good pace, RED doesn’t dwell on the unsubtle political undertones (or perhaps overtones) and they appear more of a token gesture to suggest that there is more bubbling away under the surface, but in reality this is an all show action film and in that regard it’s a perfectly fine way of spending a couple of hours.