Posted by: greercn | November 10, 2010


It’s really rather a charming and offbeat plot. “Red” stands for “Retired: Extremely Dangerous” and the movie features Bruce Willis making fun of every straight action hero he has ever played. He is ex-CIA killer Frank Moses who is bored in retirement and has a phone flirtation going with Mary-Louise Parker playing Sarah Ross, an equally bored call centre singleton.

The first hour of the movie is just enormous fun. Then, the script gets a little lost. It’s based on a DC graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner (oh dear but I type that phrase too often) but that enhances rather than detracts, if you love cartoons. The second hour of this 111-minute romp still features plenty of great action and stunts, but runs out of steam and loses the fizzy edge of the early scenes.

There are so many wonderful characters here. Someone is trying to kill Frank. Haven’t they watched any “Die Hard” films? Bruce in great shape – and he is, here – is just unbeatable. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich (who channels Jeff Bridges in “The Men Who Stare At Goats”) and Helen Mirren are all retired CIA stars who give up the easy life to help Bruce. A rather spectacular and cartoonish attempt to kill Bruce is made, early on. His first date with Mary-Louise is unfortunate, as he has to kidnap her to save her life.

Events gallop along with terrific car chases, shoot-outs worthy of the best Westerns and magnificent explosions and fires. So far, so good. The supporting cast includes the fabulous Brian Cox as retired Russian spy Ivan, who has aged extremely well. His scenes with Helen Mirren ooze sex appeal.

The trouble is that Frank and Sarah don’t have the same chemistry. We just don’t care very much about their romance.

Karl Urban (2009’s “Star Trek” as Bones and “The Chronicles of Riddick”) is very good as the CIA agent out to kill our heroes and Rebecca Pidgeon as his boss gives another great performance. Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss and  Julian McMahon all add their own idiosyncratic touches.

I should add that I need to see this again when I am warm. The West India Quay Cineworld screen was absolutely freezing and my warm coat protected me, but not others. People turned into popsicles before my eyes. I do not like to see others suffer, even when I am protected by my mother’s great coat.

So, I may be biased. But I think Robert Schwentke’s direction – so on the mark in “Flightplan” –  fails to rein in his stars. Heck, he’s overawed. I would be too, in his shoes.

There is homage to “Miami Vice”, the James Bond movies and every Cold War movie you ever saw. No victimhood or pop psychology sullies the plot, which has to be applauded. There are loads of very funny lines. Having Helen Mirren and Mary-Louise Parker play sexy women who are the wrong side of 45 is really very special and rare.

I have mixed feelings as I looked at my watch twice. I will just have to buy the DVD to see if this film fares better when I have feeling in my feet again that isn’t of the “wow, they feel cold” variety.

It’s nearly 100 posts on this site and not quite a year since I started. Thank you to all for the comments. And a big thumbs up to those of you who have noticed that I sneak three song lyric fragments into each post. I think number 100 will be my best 10 and worst 10 movies ever. But I am open to other suggestions!



  1. Your writing gets better and better. I do disagree with you about the Sarah/Frank
    romance–but perhaps you disliked it because it’s a singularly American style of offhand romance. (I CARED!) (A LOT!)

  2. I didn’t think they had as much chemistry as Brian Cox and Helen Mirren. They did when they were on the phone to each other, but it seemed to me it fizzled out later.

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