Red (retired, extremely dangerous) is the sort of title any employee would covet as their career winds down. For a team of aging ex-superspies, however, the old days on the job are exactly what they miss most.
Boasting an all-star cast, which includes Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich, Red follows a group of retired spies pursued by their old agency. Directed by Robert Schwentke, the film presents audiences with a steady barrage of action and violence starring some of Hollywood's biggest names, served up with a heavy helping of charm and wit.
Willis plays Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent struggling to adjust to life in suburbia. He spends his days making long-distance phone calls to a pension representative named Sarah (Weeds star Mary-Louise Parker). The two have never met, but spend hours talking with each other about everything and nothing at once.
It doesn't take long, however, for Frank's idyllic life to crumble around him. When dozens of men wielding assault rifles descend on his home, Frank nonchalantly disposes of them in a scene of spectacular gunfire and, yes, explosions. Old habits, it seems, still die hard. He flees the scene, travels to pick up Sarah, and together they set off to warn his friends and get some answers.
The film is handled in a stylistically whimsical, breezy fashion by director Scwentke. There is an overabundance of violence, but it is depicted with enough gleeful abandon to be supremely entertaining. Physics is defied, grenades are like baseballs, and empty casings pile up on all sides as the film cuts in and out of bullet time. The end result is an exhilarating display that avoids being exhausting.
Willis isn't the only action hero of the show, of course. Alongside him are Joe (Morgan Freeman) and a conspiracy theorist named Marvin (in a hilariously loopy performance by John Malkovich). They are later joined by wetworks specialist (she kills people, darling), Victoria. Helen Mirren, who plays her, retains the elegance that won her an Oscar as The Queen in 2006. Here, though, she sheds the aloof posturing and lets loose with cold, lethal fury. As she stands behind an enormous machine gun, grinning while pouring hundreds of rounds into a packed car garage, one can't help but be delighted.
Red's one downside, if it can be considered that, is that the film is almost entirely one-dimensional. There is no real drama, no emotion and very few plot twists. The conceit of retirement home action heroes is itself old (see Space Cowboys and the latest Indiana Jones for examples). Red is first, foremost and solely an action vehicle for these aging Hollywood stars.
Sometimes, though, big names, gunfire and ear-shattering explosions are just what audiences need. So it is with Red, one of 2010's best action movies.
Note: Red also features several short appearances by Ernest Borgnine, who at 93 shows no signs of stopping. Eli Wallach, who appeared in the recent Wall Street sequel, is a whopping 95. Betty White, 88, has just experienced an enormous surge in popularity herself. Together, they are some of the oldest figures still operating in Hollywood. Hats off to these men and women for their endless tenacity and love of the job. They may not be retired, but up-and-coming actors be warned, they are still extremely dangerous.
Josh Snyder is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a senior at Arizona State University.