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Action Movies Get Better with Age in Red

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • Updated Jan 28, 2011
Action Movies Get Better with Age in <i>Red</i>

DVD Release Date:  January 25, 2011
Theatrical Release Date:  October 15, 2010
Rating:  PG-13 (for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language)
Genre:  Spy/Action, Adventure, Comedy
Run Time:  111 min.
Director:  Robert Schwentke
Actors:  Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine, Brian Cox, Julian McMahon

Ever wonder what might happen if someone tried frying bullets like a side of bacon in a sizzling skillet full of hot oil?

For the record, that's just one of the ridiculous stunts that are carried off with aplomb in the highly entertaining Red, an acronym for "retired and extremely dangerous." Like this past summer's surprise hit The Expendables, the bulk of Red's cast may qualify for AARP card-carrying status, but it's a serious mistake to underestimate their strength. Case in point: Helen Mirren looks pretty fierce wielding an AK-47.

As it turns out, the life of leisure isn't exactly Frank Moses' (Bruce Willis) proverbial cup of tea. Noticeably bored with suburban life and the lame holiday decorations that often accompany it, the only kicks Frank gets these days are when he chats with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) the lady in charge of sending his monthly pension check. In fact, he rips up each and every check, just so he can call and request another.

However, just as all those weeks of flirty banter are finally about to pay off (Sarah said Frank could call her when he's in town the following week), a reminder of his past suddenly arrives and inexplicably starts firing off round after round of ammo in Frank's general direction.  Thankfully, Frank hasn't lost any of his mojo in the ol' retaliation department and quickly comes up with a plan.

Convinced that someone's also been listening in on his conversations with Sarah, his first instinct is to protect his cubical-dwelling, romance novel-loving sweetie. So in what's gotta win some major points for "Most Creative First Date," Frank channels Tom Cruise's Knight and Day character and informs her that sticking with him is the only way to stay alive. And then he promptly kidnaps her from her Kansas City apartment, puts electrical tape over her mouth and transports her to a "secure" location, a shady hotel in the outskirts of New Orleans.

Truth be told, the desperate-for-adventure (hence that love of escapist reading) Sarah has a pretty great attitude about the craziness that's going down, and her naturally flighty nature, not to mention a penchant for great comebacks in response to Frank's clear-cut instructions, makes for great comic relief in the tension.

Much like Knight and Day, which also involved a flighty civilian unexpectedly thwarted into the spy world, the story eventually jumps around to a variety of locales as Frank tries to make sense of what's happening. Hoping his former co-workers have a clue or two, he eventually meets up with the motley crew that includes the extremely paranoid Marvin who lives in a makeshift bunker in Florida (John Malkovich, who naturally steals every scene he's in), Joe (Morgan Freeman), who freakishly manages to cheat death again and again while biding his time in a nursing home and the stately Victoria (Mirren) who still works the odd job on the side while keeping up with her knitting projects and party-planning.

Be forewarned, though:  like many spy-oriented tales before it, especially those with a wink and a nudge toward the ‘60s era, it's best to suspend your disbelief and not get overly obsessed with the details. While the story itself is pretty standard-issue fare where the CIA may—or may not—be the bad guys launching the whole plot against Frank and his compadres into motion, it's ultimately the snappy dialogue and cheeky sense of humor, not what's actually happening, that distinguishes Red from the pack.

Proving that some action movies simply get better with age, these veteran actors are clearly having a hoot playing these characters as they deliver one snarky one-liner after another with the utmost comedic precision. And unlike the aforementioned Expendables, which constantly pushed the boundaries of good taste, Willis, Freeman, Malkovich and Mirren actually manage to stay classy while doing so—imagine that.


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Social drinking shown, plus Frank drugs Sarah with sedatives so she won't compromise the operation.
  • Language/Profanity:  The "brief strong language" involves one use of the "f" word. God's name is also misused on occasion.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Flirtation and some kissing, but that's as far as it goes.
  • Violence:  Lots and lots of gunfire during the action scenes (some intense, some not so much), although there's very little blood considering how many shots are taken. 


Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog

For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.