Throughout the ’80s cop movie “Lethal Weapon,” Sgt. Roger Murtaugh keeps saying he’s getting too old for the action of a policeman’s life. But with their guns blazing and their age-defying stunts, the characters in “Red” seem to disagree.
“Red” is a no-holds barred action movie centering on retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis). Since retiring from the agency, his life is pretty boring: eating cereal in his bare kitchen, reluctantly putting up Christmas decorations and romancing telemarketer Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker). That all ends when a CIA team comes to his house and tries to kill him and Ross. With nowhere else to turn, he goes to his other retired friends, Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren), to take the team down.
The movie gets its humor and entertainment value from the fact that all the main CIA agents in the movie are over the age of 55. The title “Red” is an acronym for “Retired but Extremely Dangerous,” making an interesting concept for a comic book-based movie. The story picks up with Matheson in a nursing home, where he sits on the couch checking out his nurse. The movie later finds Marvin hiding in the woods and Victoria arranging flowers in her home.
The highlight of the film is perennial oddball Malkovich. His character is introduced as living underground in a secret bunker, paranoid from years of government experimentation with LSD. He wears plastic bags to protect himself from the elements and hides his grenade launchers in stuffed animals. To put it simply, he’s a kook — and a funny one.
The movie does falter a bit when the audience is asked to suspend disbelief, just like in other action movies. A CIA team shot up the entire front of Frank Moses’ house, but he emerged without a scratch. Even more unbelievably, none of his neighbors wake up to hear the racket outside.
The film is 111 minutes of pure fun, intense fighting and explosions combined with genuine laughs. The movie succeeds in the action genre, combining an interesting plot with a fantastic cast. Unlike Murtaugh in “Lethal Weapon,” none of the actors have gotten “too old” for action movies — and it shows.
“Red” was written by John and Erich Hoeber and directed by Robert Schwentke. The original graphic novel was written by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.