Red

This month it was difficult to choose which film to review. Our deadline is ten days before you get your print copy of the magazine, so I have to intuit what current showing has the legs to stay around for a while.

The most important film out now is Waiting for Superman, a searing look at the American education system, but it’s a documentary—so no one will see it. A gorgeous, thoughtful drama is Never Let Me Go, based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s bestselling novel about cloning. But it’s so sad, no one will see it. There’s Heartbreaker, a clever romantic comedy shot in Monaco. But it’s in French, with no well-known actors, so no one will see it. The number one box office hit this past weekend was Jackass 3D, about morons who attempt perilous stunts—and I was not going to see that!

Was there any new film that American audiences would like? At the last minute one arrived. Red is a spy caper with a twist—the spies are played by some of our favorite mature actors who have entirely too much fun proving they’ve got twice as much mojo as any A-lister half their age.

Awesomely buff but bald-pated retired CIA agent Frank Moss (Bruce Willis) is going stir-crazy with boredom. His only excitement is the sweet phone relationship he has with the gal in Kansas City who handles his pension checks. He’s never met Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), but he’s also never been shy about hacking into databases, so he knows what she looks like (adorable) and where she lives.

Early one morning at home Frank is attacked by a horde of assassins. After he expertly dispatches each one, he has to face facts—even though he’s retired, somebody wants him dead. But who? And why?

He retrieves his weapon stash, burns down the house and heads off to visit Miss Ross. Because their phone calls must have been tapped, he knows she’s a target, too. When Frank shows up at Sarah’s house, she screams her head off. After a few days, he unties her and she starts thinking he’s kind of cute.

Frank realizes he’s going to need help, so he gathers his old buddies, each of whose files is labeled “RED,” for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), dying from liver cancer in New Orleans, tells Frank, “I never thought this would happen to me—getting old” and eagerly signs on. Next is Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), a raving paranoid lunatic. Last member is Victoria (Helen Mirren), the best assassin in the business. She can’t stand one more minute of flower arranging, so she’s in, with enthusiasm. Even the team’s old nemesis wants in. Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox) misses the good old days when killing enemies was fun. Being KGB, of course, Ivan has a hidden agenda—maybe he can convince Victoria he’s forgiven her for the three bullets she put into his chest the last time she saw him.

The old fogies have the time of their lives, roughing up bad guys such as billionaire arms dealer Alexander Dunning (Richard Dreyfuss), making mincemeat out of arrogant FBI agent William Cooper (Keith Urban), and proving to anyone foolish enough to question them that getting older means getting better. As the action builds, the mystery comes unraveled, reaching far back in time to a CIA mess in Guatemala and as high up as the White House.

Being PG-13, all of Red’s violence is nameless and bloodless. The action is constant, the romances are believable, John Malkovich is hilarious, Mary-Louise Parker is incandescent, and hunky Bruce Willis is both lethal and lovable. The only “message” in the movie is one that many audience members want to hear these days—grey hair is totally golden. Go enjoy!

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