by Ryan Hill
Retirement can be a tricky thing. Some people travel the world, seeing things they didn’t have the opportunity to when they were working. Others spend their time reading books, pursuing hobbies or spending more time with their family.
According to the new movie “Red,” if you’re a retired CIA agent, you may spend retirement alone in an empty house, you may try a retirement home or you might simply resign yourself to a life spent in hiding, just waiting to die – because that’s apparently just how boring a normal life is.
Based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, “Red” stars Bruce Willis as Frank Moses, a retired CIA agent who sits in said empty house alone all day, waiting for his pension checks to arrive. When they do arrive, he tears them up so he can speak to a customer service representative he’s developed a crush on but has never met. Luckily for him, that customer service rep looks a lot like Mary-Louise Parker, so when they do inevitably meet, sparks are bound to fly.
Frank’s boring life is upended one night when a trio of men in black outfits arrives with big machine guns, intent on blowing him away. It seems he’s been tagged RED, meaning “retired and extremely dangerous.” Frank, grizzled CIA veteran that he is, is too smart for these faceless baddies and makes easy work of them. He then enlists his old agency buddies, played by Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and the always-entertaining John Malkovich to help clear his name, as an up-and-coming CIA agent (Karl Urban) tries to track him down.
There is no shortage of firepower whatsoever in “Red” – anything and everything is game to be shot to a million pieces. Director Robert Schwentke must have been trying to overcompensate for his last effort, the Rachel McAdams romance film “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” because few films out there take as much glee in firing an assortment of weapons as “Red” does. The movie is rated PG-13, so while the film is very heavy on the firepower, it’s very light on the blood and guts. I guess that’s what “The Expendables” is for.
Everything about “Red” makes it feel like a sequel. Willis and his cohorts constantly talk about and cling to the good old bygone days, back when they were killing people for the CIA. They hold onto their past, unable to create new lives for themselves, so the opportunity for them to get together and take on the CIA feels like a reunion of sorts, a return to their glory years. They seemed so happy back in their heyday that it’s odd they didn’t just make that into a movie.
Instead, “Red” squanders an opportunity to be a subversive, witty take on the action genre by letting itself get bogged-down by boring, paint-by-numbers scenes that feel like they belong in a direct-to-DVD film starring Wesley Snipes. It also doesn’t really seem to matter that the heroes are retired. Not only are they smarter than the younger, more athletic CIA agents chasing them, but they also routinely get the best of them, be it in hand-to-hand combat or gun fights.
The action and the humor, especially from Malkovich and Parker, border on inspired lunacy, but the clichéd storytelling keeps “Red” from truly reliving those glory days, something its characters are all too familiar with.
Grade: 3/4 Stars