Monday, October 18, 2010


My review of Red appears in this week's WE.


Directed by Robert Schwentke
Starring Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Helen Mirren

A comic-book adaptation catering to the over-40 crowd might not sound cool, but this newest addition to the over-stuffed graphic-novel film genre succeeds where others have failed. A grown-up action flick, Red layers laughs between the flying bullets and fierce blows.

The movie’s title stands for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous,” a code used to label former black-ops agents like Frank (Bruce Willis). His retirement is pure tedium, interrupted only by the bashful phone conversations with Sarah (Mary Louise Parker), the bureaucrat who processes the government pension cheques he tears up every few weeks, so he has an excuse to call her. When Frank’s house is suddenly shot to splinters by masked gunmen, he goes on the lam, dragging the reluctant Sarah along in an effort to protect her.

Frank regroups with his former covert team to topple his perceived nemesis, CIA agent William Cooper (Karl Urban), and take down the bad guys. The motley crew features Marvin (John Malkovich), a lethal, rightfully paranoid basket-case who suffers from flashbacks thanks to daily doses of LSD he was given as part of a CIA experiment; Victoria (Helen Mirren), a beautiful reservoir of icy calm who can fire machine guns without blinking; Joe (Morgan Freeman), a sly horn-dog suffering from stage-four cancer; and Ivan (Brian Cox), a former Russian spy who still carries a torch for Victoria.

The story unfolds in predictable shoot-‘em-up fashion, but Red’s draw is its strong cast, all of whom have great fun playing (mostly) against type. (Mirren and a machine gun? Brilliant!) And though this is a comic-book adaptation, there are no superheroes here, just plenty of delightfully implausible action sequences, sharp humour, and the visceral thrill of seeing actors dig in to elevate Red from merely decent to dangerously fun. —Andrea Warner

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