Movie Review


There's No Substitute for Experience.
Red Movie Poster

US Release Date: 10-15-2010

Directed by: Robert Schwentke


  • Bruce Willis
  • Frank Moses
  • Mary-Louise Parker
  • Sarah Ross
  • Karl Urban
  • William Cooper
  • Morgan Freeman
  • Joe Matheson
  • Ernest Borgnine
  • Henry, The Records Keeper
  • John Malkovich
  • Marvin Boggs
  • Brian Cox
  • Ivan Simanov
  • Helen Mirren
  • Victoria
  • Richard Dreyfuss
  • Alexander Dunning
  • Julian McMahon
  • Robert Stanton
Average Stars:
Reviewed on: October 17th, 2010
Helen Mirren and John Malkovich are dressed to kill

Helen Mirren and John Malkovich are dressed to kill

Red proves one important thing.  A good action film does not have to use young, buff actors to be good.  

Bruce Willis (age 55) plays retired CIA agent Frank Moses.  He is lonely.  His only social contact seems to be over the phone with a government employee, Sarah, played by Mary-Louise Parker (46).  He pretends he has not received his retirement checks as an excuse to call and talk to her.  They usually discuss the latest romance novel she has read.

Some assassins show up, and attack him at his home.  He finds himself on the lamb.  He goes to find Sarah, as he figures whoever was after him will know that she was someone he contacted often.    He forces her to come with him, as he collects some old retired friends, to find out what is going on. 

Joe, 73 year old Freeman, is living in a retirement home but has some important information.  They meet up with paranoid, nut job Marvin (Malkovich, age 57).  He sees conspiracies everywhere.  The final member is the elegant Victoria, played by the sexy at any age Helen Mirren, (65).  Their investigation eventually leads them to gangster Richard Dreyfuss (63).   If that is not enough Hollywood seniority, 93 year old Ernest Borgnine is in a couple of scene.

Together they uncover a conspiracy that goes all the way to the White House, of course.  Assigned to find them, but not told why, is CIA agent William Cooper (Urban, age 38)  He and Willis share the movie's most memorable dialogue exchange.  While in the middle of fighting each other, Moses asks, "Kordeski trained you?"  Cooper answers, "Yea?"  Moses adds, "I trained Kordeski."   

Action movies are as much about gun fire and quick editing as they are about actual stunts.  Schwentke  simply uses a couple of stunt doubles and lets the bad guys do most of the running.  Filmed correctly, most of these old farts probably never broke a sweat filming this.  The tension would have been no greater had younger actors played the parts.

The coolest scene in the entire film is when Willis first confronts Urban.  They are face to face in moving vehicles.  Willis stops his car quickly, forcing it to turn.   As it turns, he steps out of the car in slow motion with gun blazing.   

The plot is not completely solid.  One key player is shot, but neither side knows who did it.  The movie never says who it was.  My favorite part of the entire film though, is when Moses threatens Cooper's family.  Up to this point, Cooper is just doing his "job."  By threatening his family, Moses sends the message that his job of killing someone is in fact, very personal.   It is a nice little touch.  However, the final scene of the entire movie, is an over the top joke.  At least they waited until the end to throw that one in. 

Reviewed on: October 17th, 2010
Ernest Borgnine, still in the game at 93, and Bruce Willis.

Ernest Borgnine, still in the game at 93, and Bruce Willis.

Eric, you beat me to the point about the ages of the key players here. I mentioned in my Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps review that it was nice to see a director using older actors. With Red it seems that the autumn of 2010 is turning into a banner time to be over 45 in Hollywood. I loved seeing Ernest Borgnine in his small role as Henry the CIA’s record keeper. At 93 he, along with the 94-year-old Eli Wallach (Money Never Sleeps) are pushing up the age limit for movie actors.

Taken from a DC comics graphic novel, Red deftly manages the balancing act of action and humor. The scene where the assassin squad blasts the hell out of Frank Moses’ house lets you know just what kind of kick-ass adventure ride you are in for. Then after we first see Sarah in the back seat of Frank’s car we get a dose of the humor we are in store for as well. As each of Frank’s old teammates joins the cause the danger escalates to a satisfying conclusion.

The chemistry between Willis and Parker is charming and effortless. She has some of the funniest moments. After being kidnapped and having several near death experiences she tells Frank, “This isn’t the best first date I’ve ever had.” Then after a momentary pause, “It isn’t the worst either.”

Helen Mirren steals a few scenes. She is such a lady one second and then a ruthless killer the next. Her romance with the Russian agent (Brian Cox) provides some real emotion without being at all sentimental. Richard Dreyfuss, in his tough guy scene at the end, seems to be channeling James Cagney.

The one minor complaint I had was that many of the action sequences are predictable. You know what’s about to happen before it actually does. But on this cinematic roller coaster simply knowing that a steep drop is coming doesn’t lessen the exhilaration of experiencing it.

Reviewed on: October 17th, 2010
Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker in Red.

Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker in Red.

I love when a movie lives up to its billing.  I started seeing previews for Red months ago (including the badass car spinning scene you mention Eric) and I've been looking forward to it ever since.  My only fear was that it wouldn't live up to my expectations.  Happily my worries were for nothing as Bruce Willis and company prove they still have it no matter their age.

My one and only complaint about the plot is the major player who gets killed.  Not because, as Eric says, they don't explicitly say who kills him (that much is obvious), but because he dies for such a stupid reason.  That's really the best plan they had?  Shove one of their own guys out the front door while they go out the back?  Why not shove one of the bad guys out the front door?  It's as if they decided one of the characters had to die, but then couldn't come up with a good way of doing it.

Patrick, you forgot to mention The Expendables in regards to being over 45.  Unlike that movie though, where the ages are mostly ignored, I loved that the characters in Red, particularly Willis, were playing their age.  I mean you look at Roger Moore's final Bond films and he was around Willis's age here, but he was pretending to be 20 years younger. Here, the character's age is a part of the story and it strengthens it.

The humor is blended well into the story.  It's funny, but never undercuts the tension, except for, as you say Eric, the final scene, but that's just a throw away end credit joke anyway, so it doesn't really matter.

Hopefully they'll make a sequel as there's clearly plenty of adventure left in this group and who knows who else they can drag out of the retirement home.  Mickey Rooney as the oldest living assassin in the world, perhaps?

Related Review