There’s more to the fun of “Red” than Helen Mirren firing away like a madman with a machine gun. It’s an action movie not afraid to flash its AARP card, which makes its rather typical action and plot feel a lot fresher than it probably is. With Bruce Willis finally embracing his age, rather than doing movie after movie that’s one “yippee-ki-yay” away from complete implausibility, it’s a nice change of pace for the action star that could signal better days ahead.
As Frank Moses, the retired and extremely dangerous (hence the acronym RED) former CIA agent, Willis is having a rough time adjusting to life after his time in black-ops. He’s trying to do the whole suburban thing, but the only thing that gives him real joy is chatting with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a federal pension phone customer service representative. Of course, at 55, main street Americans only wish they could be receiving retirement benefits as opposed to unemployment benefits.
But whatever normalcy he built in suburbia is shattered as he’s drawn back into the bullet-ridden world by an attempt on his life. Frank discovers that thanks to being part of a Guatemalan mission back in the ’80s, he’s being targeted for death. Gathering up a gang of other Baby Boomers including the incredibly paranoid conspiracy theorist Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), Frank’s terminally ill mentor Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), and Victoria (Helen Mirren), a former assassin with class and grace. Yet the best part of all is that Frank brings Sarah, oblivious to the perils of the, along for the ride.
The trigger-happy travelogue through the United States is a wild romp that excites and entertains at surprisingly high octane and high thrills. At 110 minutes, the premise ages quickly and begins to drag a little bit. Yet the entertainment is always solid as the bullets fly and bombs explode, even as the trek through the plot gets a little … dare I say it, old. But it has a plot, and that’s more than I can say for most action movies nowadays. B /