Who’s In It: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, James Remar, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine
The Basics: Former CIA operative Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) struggles with the monotony of retirement. Lonely and bored in the ‘burbs, he cherishes his monthly phone calls with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), his comely pension adjuster and the only real human connection in his life. So when masked gunmen on attack Frank one night in his home on behalf of the U.S. government, he springs into action, kidnaps Sarah for her own protection, and recruits four of his old buddies (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, and Helen Mirren) to find out who’s responsible and carry out one last mission.
What’s The Deal: Based on the comic book of the same name, Red traverses a lot of familiar ground in the double-crossed assassin/one last job playbook. That’s partially the point, as Red’s setup, about retired and elderly ex-spies itching to get back in the game, is primed for a satirical take down of the genre. But while screenwriters John and Erich Hoeber and director Robert Schwentke squeeze laughs and introspective musings alike from the subject of aging and obsolescence, the film’s breezy tone, thin characterizations, and PG-13 action make it clear that Red doesn’t mean to be taken too seriously. Why spend time analyzing the psychological toll that war and espionage takes on the personal lives of assassins when you can focus on Helen Mirren wielding deadly weapons?
That’s Not To Say The Sight Of Helen Mirren Wielding Deadly Weapons Isn’t Awesome: It is. Especially when she’s camouflaged in the snow with men in the sights of her sniper rifle. Or shooting a sub-machine gun in an evening gown. Or spraying bullets from a tripod-mounted Browning M2, a la Rambo, with a deadly serious look on her face. Mirren, playing off her distinguished GILF persona with aplomb, also delivers the best line of the movie as she explains to a house guest just what it is that she does: “I kill people, dear.”
Second-Best Instance Of Savvy Dialogue-Writing: The exchange between Frank and his old frenemy, Ivan (Brian Cox), as they meet over vodka shots: “I miss the old days. I haven’t killed anyone in years.” “That’s sad.”
How To Be John Malkovich In 2010: Show up to set. Put on a kooky accent and glare evilly at Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex). Wear tacky ‘70s outfits and stare grumpily at a horse (Secretariat). Jump out of a pile of leaves with a crossbow and act so paranoid that no one can tell if it’s all an act or not, maybe not even your own co-stars (Red). Collect your paycheck and look for your next colorful eccentric role, because you’ve got a monopoly on the market for crazy and you can sleepwalk your way through these characters all the way to the bank.