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Red (2010)

Rating: 8/10

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) seems to be living a decent, if somewhat dull, existence in the suburbs, with his nicely decorated home, avocado growing in a jar, and collection of Christmas decorations sprucing up his lawn. The one bright spot in his month is his phone relationship with Call Center worker Sarah (Mary Louise Parker), a romance novel-reading woman who appears to be very much a gal after his own heart. As things often happen, however, when one is a former Black Ops agent with the CIA, things get ugly, Frank finds himself deemed, “RED: Retired, Extremely Dangerous,” Sarah finds herself on the run with Frank, and the two must enlist the help of Frank’s former “co-workers” (Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman) before they all end up casualties of a mysterious hit list being carried out by one very resourceful Agent Cooper (Karl Urban) and some powerful folks right smack dab in the middle of our government.

It would’ve been difficult to ruin this movie, given the assembled talent and premise ripe with promise. Seriously—put Bruce Willis with guns and explosions and we’re good already, but add in Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman, and nothing can go wrong. And it doesn’t, happily, which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable action film that sidesteps any predictability or incredulousness simply by being fun. Sometimes action movies forget that humor is their friend, or the reverse happens, and it all becomes too jokey and one-note, but this one strikes a balance that keeps it consistent and surprising all at once, and with Malkovich running around spouting (true) conspiracy theories, all is right with the world.

The surprise, for me, was how likeable Parker is. I mean, I’ve never had anything against her, but she’s just really good as Bruce’s romantic partner, and even in some of the totally unbelievable bits she’s tossed into, she shines. That’s not to say, though, that everyone isn’t spot on—it’s especially thrilling to see Helen Mirren channel both Martha Stewart and cold-blooded killer all at once (though I guess that’s kind of the same). Performances go a long way towards helping us forgive things such as Parker’s character’s relative ease with her new situation or the sometimes murky hit list plot that is really more just an excuse for action. We forgive, though, because it’s entertaining action, and because when you’re watching something that has sucked you in because the characters are so good, sometimes the other flaws aren’t so glaring.

It's Got: Superb casting, much funny, a gun-holding piggy backpack

It Needs: A sequel, more Malkovich, Joe to rise from the dead


Red does all the things an action movie should do, and it proves you don’t need hot young stars to blow things up.