Director: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Brian Cox
This pedestrian action-comedy, about a maverick gang of elderly ex-CIA agents, opens on overly familiar ground and never really improves. Willis is all smirk and swagger as Frank Moses, a former government assassin living out his lonely retirement in suburbia - until a heavily armed hit squad blows his house to pieces. Moses escapes and goes on the run, kidnapping Parker's kooky call-centre employee for her own safety. Assembling a motley team of fellow retired spooks, he declares war on the crooked CIA insiders who are trying to eliminate them to cover up for murky past misdeeds. In essence, Willis is playing Jason Bourne in middle age. "The Bald Ultimatum", anyone? Red - which stands for "Retired, Extremely Dangerous" - is loosely based on a minor DC comic book. Sadly, in contrast to other recent comic adaptations such as Kick-Ass or Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, the jokes are clunky while Robert Schwentke's creaky direction lacks any hint of visual verve. Freeman, Malkovich, Mirren and Cox may be classy screen heavyweights, but all are slumming it shamelessly in these clownish caricature roles. Perhaps the kindest thing to be said of Red is that it is better than Sylvester Stallone's execrable but thematically similar old-folks action romp, The Expendables. We could question the film's blindly uncritical attitude to CIA assassination, but that would be taking its infantile bubblegum tone far too seriously. As it stands, even by the basic standards of shallow escapism, it fails the crucial test by simply being tedious. Jason Bourne? Make that "The Bored Ultimatum".
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