At the Movies with Alan Gekko: RED “2010”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action-Comedy/ Stars: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker, Rebecca Pidgeon, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, Julian McMahon, Ernest Borgnine, James Remar/ Runtime: 111 minutes

A question to start this review off for you dear reader: what do you get when you mix together deadly assassins, a feeling of paranoia you can’t shake, romance amidst a steady stream of bullets being fired from all directions, shady political machinations being operated from within our own government, and retirement homes? In case you haven’t figured out you get just a handful of the key ingredients that are molded together in film helmer Robert Schwentke’s 2010 film RED. Indeed here is a film that is both action-packed and quite hilarious which also somehow is able to delicately measure out the vast array of ingredients that it is working with and transform them into a delectable film that is heavy on both the action and the humor in equal measure. Indeed though it might get the vast majority of its laughs from such sights as Helen Mirren making it rain with a heavy machine gun or a delightfully nutty John Malkovich playing suicide bomber or running around with a pink stuffed pig, the film still manages to be just the right balance of the two even if, in all fairness, the action is completely meant to be as over the top as possible and the laughs in good taste, but sometimes not exactly subtle jabs at getting older. Above all though, RED is a film that just wants both the cast and those who watch it to relax and have some fun and, despite a flaw here and there, is electric enough that you will have an absolute blast watching this time and time again.

The plot is as follows: RED tells us the story of a man by the name of Frank Moses who, as of the past couple of years, is a retiree whose day to day is spent trying to come up with excuses to pick up the phone and call the lovely voice he’s fallen for on the other end which belongs to a woman by the name of Sarah Ross and whose occupation is working for the federal pension office in the Midwest that sends Frank his retirement checks. Soon enough we see that, thanks to equal amounts of charm and perseverance, Frank is able to get a date with his dream girl, but before he can head out to Kansas City to meet and woo her, he is besieged in his house one night by a squad of heavily-armed assassins. Yet Moses we soon learn has had some training in his day and that, despite his age, is still able to lay a beat-down on when the situation calls for it. Having dispatched the team in glorious fashion, Frank soon heads directly to Kansas City to keep Sarah safe since he feels she might also be a target due his phone calls for her most likely being bugged. Yet even after finally meeting the woman of his dreams, Frank still has no on Earthly idea just who wants him dead or why. As such, he is forced to head to see his old mentor Joe who clues him into the story of a tenacious though recently killed reporter, a hit list, and how it all ties to a black ops mission Frank was a part of back in the 80s. From there we see our intrepid squad head to meet with both a paranoid yet lethal fellow black ops agent named Marvin Boggs as well as another former teammate named Victoria not only to beef up their numbers a little bit, but to band together in an attempt to both stay alive and figure out why they are being hunted. Not only against the government agents who clearly want them dead, but from a relentless CIA agent by the name of William Cooper who has been designated by the “powers that be” to bring Moses and anyone who aids him down…

Now there are a pair of key ingredients which help to ensure that this film is ultimately as successful as it turns out to be: a delightfully lighthearted vibe and a truly phenomenal cast. In regards to the first ingredient, RED is constructed around a novel yet intriguing concept of a squad of black ops agents getting back in the game despite the fact that serving their country and staying alive from thousands of rounds of ammunition was seemingly a lifetime ago for these characters. Indeed that may have been important at one time, but now their priorities include such things as wooing a lovely voice on the other side of the phone, ogling over the pretty and much younger nurses at the retirement home, staying as hidden as possible from enemies both real and conjured up by the mind, and baking and flower arranging. Indeed in many respects, RED is an answer to the question of just how long could a hero like John McClane keep kicking some serious butt before Die Hard in a Wheelchair becomes a thing. Yet even though the characters might not quite be at that point, it’s still the concept of seeing these old-school actors back in the game for another round of popcorn-fun level action that makes this film the treat that it is. Indeed it doesn’t matter if you have no prior history with these people since the script helps construct them so well that it is not that hard to picture them in their glory days with the CIA long before hanging out in home in their pajamas and seeing whatever is on TV became their day to day. The narrative at times also doesn’t matter that much if we’re being honest since what does matters in this film is putting a group of “geriatrics” smack dab in the middle of intriguing action beats that prove to be just as crazy and engaging as the vast majority of other films out there and above all watching them go to work and kick bad guy butt whilst also bickering back and forth is a true treat to behold to say nothing of the fact that this film most assuredly is proof that age is just a number.

The second ingredient that is absolutely essential to this film’s overall success is the fact that the movie was able to get the kind of cast together which absolutely sells this thing for every single penny that it could potentially be worth. Indeed when you have a cast with names like Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and hell even Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfuss all in it, it already, based off their combined years of experience, already sounds more like a nightly Hollywood AARP chapter rather than the cast for an entry in the action genre from 2010, but they all still manage to do absolutely incredible work in this. Indeed as our core group, Willis, Freeman, Malkovich, Mirren, and Parker all manage to come together in a way that feels more like a group of chemicals bonding. Indeed it really is a credit to both the tone of the movie and how strong this film’s script is that each of their characters is fully developed in such a way that you feel like this group is compatriots both former and current. Not only that, but Willis and Parker also manage to conjure up for us a believable romance in that it starts out cautious yet optimistic, goes sideways really fast, and proceeds to heat up as Sarah becomes intrigued by Frank, their travels, and the adrenaline rush of becoming part of something bigger than could ever have imagined. We also get wonderful work from Karl Urban as the film’s approachable and also intriguingly human “bad guy” to say nothing of the fact that he and Willis have a fight scene that is absolutely incredible, Richard Dreyfuss who manages to acquire the prize for sneakiest good performance in this with his role which although not as screen time heavy as the others is just as if not more so integral to the narrative, and even Borgnine manages to do typical for Borgnine wonderful work in what is practically an extended, but still quite golden cameo.

Now for all of the good things that this film has going for it, it saddens me to tell you that RED is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed the movie does have moments where it drags just a little bit, and for what it manages to acquire in regards to extra development for both the narrative and cast of characters, it sacrifices in terms of pacing. Indeed it takes a solid hour for all the key players to be introduced and just as long if not longer for the story to come to play, but in the film’s defense it would seem that what the director was intending here was to, quite brilliantly, keep the audience in the dark as much as the characters are and thus allow the narrative to unfurl in due time and figure things out alongside the characters. Also, as said before, for all the good the padding does, this film just can’t maintain itself for the entirety of the runtime mostly due to how slow the middle can get at times, but this is not a huge detriment to the film. This is because this is otherwise a well put together cinematic outing and one that is focused on making sure it is in equal measure comedic, and rich in character and story as well as providing some terrific moments of engaging action. Suffice it to say then that this film knows exactly what it needs to be to get audiences interested. Yes it most assuredly was a film that was not going to win any major awards, but it still is a lot of fun and sometimes that is all that a film really needs to be in order to succeed.

All in all RED is a film which exists solely just for the veteran cast and the audience members assembled to watch it to just plain and simply have a fun time to the point that this film wears that word on its lapel through and through making for one of the most engaging and less pretentious films I have seen in a while. Indeed RED earns my praise not only for actually being honest with movie goers about the kind of film it is, but also for being able to find just the right balance between action and comedy whilst also making sure that its talented veteran cast is able to breath enough life into the Mentos-mint action beats to make them as fresh and wonderful as they possibly could hope to be. Thus RED truly is a little yet big film not only because it has one of the finer casts put together for a movie of this ilk, but also in the way that it has its heart in just the right spot thus giving us a film as light as a feather and as powerful as an RPG to the point that most movies just plain and simply do not get as fun as this. On a scale of 1-5 I give RED “2010” a solid 3.5 out of 5.