Red is the epitome of a pleasant diversion. Don't think, just watch. Nobody who made it put too much thought into it, and none of them are asking the audience to do that either. Bruce Willis plays Bruce Willis, who shoots a bunch of people for all the right reasons while government agents, both evil and just misguided, follow his every footstep in a futile attempt to accomplish what they want to do before Bruce Willis shoots them. Do I wish it were a better movie? Yes, because it could be: it easily crushes The Losers, but it falls far short of The A-Team in 2010's Shootouts in Shipyards Trilogy. But do I actually care it isn't all it should've been? Hmmmm...
To elaborate a touch on the plot I've already described, Willis is Frank Moses, a former black ops agent who finds his suburban retirement interrupted by a hail of gunfire. He shoots a bunch of people (the geared-up military men who show up to wipe him out), drives over to pick up his current crush (a Social Security telephone telephone customer service agent named Sarah Ross, played by Mary-Louise Parker), and looks for a hiding place. Along the way, he shoots at but doesn't hit FBI Agent William Cooper (Karl Urban), because William is just misguided rather than really evil, then vanishes into the Florida swamplands to find his old pal Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) and round up a gang of similarly retired folk to help figure out why he's been targeted.
Bruce Willis also plays Bruce Willis, who looks like he fit the movie in between mowing the lawn and cleaning his roof. Much like Nicolas Cage, I don't think Willis has anyone doing wardrobe for him anymore: he just comes to work in whatever he's got on, and makes sure to keep wearing it for the next few weeks. Same goes for Morgan Freeman, who is pleasant but pretty much everything you expect from Morgan Freeman these days. John Malkovich is much more animated, playing a character so demented, you'd be forgiven for believing he was reprising Burn After Reading character, with a little less brainpower and a generous helping of paranoia. I'm also completely smitten with Mary-Louise Parker, who is as charming and funny as she is on "Weeds". It's those big, expressive eyes and sense of humor. I could go on and on, but if I remember correctly, I'm reviewing Red, not Mary-Louise Parker.
Since Red is more about audience goodwill than the convoluted conspiracy story it eventually unfolds, it trucks in a boatload of famous faces for a little screen time. I was particularly enthralled to see Ernest Borgnine -- 93 years old and still going strong! -- who has an excellent scene with Willis that briefly brings the star out of autopilot. Richard Dreyfuss pops up to play a sniveling, angry businessman, looking somewhat less obliged to be there than he did in Piranha 3D, while the younger audience has "Nip/Tuck" star Julian McMahon to look forward to, playing a Vice President who gets shot at quite a bit. Eventually, Helen Mirren and Brian Cox arrive and join the team as well, although both of them are held back by the script, which doesn't give either of them as much to do as it should.
What to say about the movie? It moves along at a reasonable clip (although it could stand to be shorter), and I was generally pleased by what I saw (one thing bugged me, but it's a spoiler, so I'll leave it out). I wish the film had a touch more energy and wit, but it's not that kind of project: this is something that everyone could come and do for a weekend or two, have a blast reminiscing with other actors of their approximate age and caliber, and go home. I bet an audio commentary or making-of documentary about Red would be more fun than the movie itself, but if you're looking for a good matinee, this is it. Plus, you get to watch Mary-Louise Parker for two hours! I take it back. Best movie of the year.
Note: I think I've said this about at least three other movies in 2010, but the PG-13 loses even more meaning with this film, which certainly contains more blood than all three Matrix films put together. As long as you don't show the gunshot appearing, I guess it's okay if characters bleed profusely.
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