Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Retired and Extremely Dangerous. This is what former CIA ‘desk clerk’ Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is classified as in director Robert Schwentke’s action movie, comic book take off RED. It’s a mundane life for Frank, whose only joy is derived from ripping up his government retirement payroll checks so that he can talk to Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) the friendly young woman, relatively speaking, on the other end of the line who assists him in getting his lost paychecks. Then all of the sudden for no particular reason a gaggle of government sanctioned armed assassins try to kill Frank at his little suburban home. As we will soon learn in degree of difficulty terms, there’s trying to do a Triple Toe Lutz while missing a leg and carrying a hippo, and right after that there’s trying to kill Frank Moses.

Why in the hell would someone want to kill a peaceful retired assassin who is just sitting around minding his own damn business? Well Frank knows a crapload of Retired and Extremely Dangerous cats and he’s going utilize these colleagues of his to find out why someone wants to kill him, but first he has to kidnap the pretty payroll clerk because these powers that be will no doubt come a hunting for her knowing full well that Frank is sweet on the girl.

So with his reluctant hostage in tow, Frank contacts his old cancer stricken colleague Joe (Morgan Freeman) to get some critical info, then it’s off to find the extremely paranoid Marvin (John Malkovich) who possesses more critical info and will act as his road dog and lethal right hand gun man. Eventually our team will add former KGB top dog Ivan Simanov (Bryan Cox) to the squad and will finally top it all off with Victoria (Helen Mirren) who is possibly the most dangerous of all our these old guns. As you can clearly see ‘RED’ could justifiably claim to have the best cast ever assembled for a movie this side of Pulp Fiction. Or Caligula. They even found a way to put Ernest Borgnine in this movie. Ernest Freaking Borgnine. Raise your hand if you knew Ernest Borgnine was still alive. Now put your hand down you lying so and so.

Perusing Frank and his crew of septuagenarian murderers is hard working and dedicated CIA assassin William Cooper (Karl Urban). Cooper’s handlers fail to mention the part about Frank being a highly trained highly skilled extremely lethal killer before giving him this assignment. Not that’s good lookin’ out. Not at all.

The question, of course, is how deep does the rabbit hole go? Well pretty damn deep as it turns out, having something to do with the highest levels of government and international arms dealer Alexander Dunning, as played yet another spectacular ancient actor in Richard Dreyfuss. I guess Peter O’Toole, Jane Fonda and Christopher Plummer were too busy that week to be in this movie as well.

Eventually all will be revealed though not all of crew will survive to see what rests at the bottom of the rabbit hole. And if by ‘not all’ I mean the Black Guy… then that’s what I mean. Oustanding.

I don’t know people but for whatever reason I expected ‘RED’ to be… better. This is a movie based off of a comic book of which I am told is spectacular, the movie has arguably the best cast ever assembled in like the last fifteen years, there’s shooting and car chases and explosions and sleight of hand and misdirection and all kinds of fantastic stuff which makes for one hell of a fantastic trailer but made for a movie that’s… okay I guess. Now if you strip away the lofty expectations then I’m almost dead certain that ‘RED’ would seem a lot better than it turned out and it’s not the fault of this movie that I had such high expectations for it, now is it? This would be all squarely my fault, but nonetheless there those expectations were and sadly they did not come close to being met.

It seemed to be that director Robert Schwentke seemed stuck in the middle with the kind of movie he wanted to make. On one hand ‘RED’ seemed poised to be a stupid, over the top, balls to the wall action movie but it wasn’t nearly stupid enough and the action wasn’t over the top enough. Then on the other hand it seemed poised to be a well thought out, clever, cloak and dagger style action flick but it wasn’t smart or clever enough to be that either. This was a competently made, run of the mill action flick with a bunch of really good actors in its cast. This is not a bad thing. Nor is it a good thing. It is just a thing. For whatever reason I expected more than just a thing, I wanted something spectacular.

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