The graphic novel-turned-film “Red,” about a group of retired assassins forced back into action draws to mind the idiom “age before beauty.” This saying for those unfamiliar, asserts that younger people should pay deference to their elders, because of their more extensive experience. It’s their knowledge and ability to think ahead that allows the old timers in “Red” to kick ass, and the chemistry of a fantastic cast that makes the movie so entertaining.
“Red” does not rely on experimental visual style despite being a graphic novel adaptation, nor does it overwhelm you with epic explosions and gunfights, though there are certainly exciting action sequences. As a film, it is much more character driven, relying on the strength of its actors to create jokes and to connect with the audience.
At the outset, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA analyst, has been living an idyllic life in suburbia with little stimulation aside from phone flirting with a customer service rep Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who he harbors a crush on. His quiet life is thrown into disarray however, when a group of highly trained men kick in his door, trying to kill him.
Suspicious that those after him will attempt to exploit his newfound friend, Frank drops in rather unexpectedly to protect Sarah. She isn’t exactly thrilled to meet Frank under these circumstances, and she is even less excited about being dragged along with him.
Luckily Frank effortlessly slips into survival mode, enlisting the help of his old friends, who he also suspects of being assassination targets. At Frank’s disposal is a colorful crop of characters played by Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Brian Cox. Rather than wait for their opponents to find them, the crew decides to turn the tables and attack their oppressors head on, to learn who wants them dead.
What makes this cast so special is that they have such an excellent rapport. They really do come off as old friends, and as a result they are much more convincing in their parts. It’s easy to suspend your disbelief and to buy into this group. Individually though each of the characters adds their own particular flavor and skills to the group. John Malkovich is particularly hilarious as the nutcase in the group, Helen Mirren is surprisingly adept with any firearm she touches, Freeman is delightfully sarcastic in tough situations, and Cox is charming with his accent.
Other honorable mentions include the businessman played by Richard Dreyfuss and the young agent Cooper played by Karl Urban. Cooper finds himself pursuing Frank because he believes Frank’s crew is operating off the reservation. Urban’s character Cooper can hold his own against Willis’s Moses in a fight, but certainly proves that youth is no match for age and experience.
Though the plot against the retired assassins in the film is not terribly well fleshed out, the crew themselves make the movie worth it. Their camaraderie and their characters make “Red” a fun one to watch. More importantly though “Red” shows that even when actors get older they can still kick ass in action films, even if there aren’t as many physical stunts.
My Grade: B+