When bad guys try to X Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) for no apparent reason he takes off, pausing only to gather up his call centre operator possible girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) who he has never met before he starts to conduct his own private investigation.
Despite some initial reluctance from Sarah at being apparently held hostage by a bald 50ish guy who might pose her significant threat the duo move quickly in that cinematic way and uncover a conspiracy that might go all the way to the top – all in a few days.
Along the way it becomes evident that Frank wasn’t a lone target, in fact someone is systematically offing many retired secret service agents – all now classified RED Retired Extremely Dangerous – so Frank sets about notifying those still alive to see if they can help.
In quick time the obviously paranoid, presumed dead, off the grid shut-in Marvin (John Malkovich) comes on board, as does Joe (Morgan Freeman) who is battling cancer and leaves his retirement home cushiness to help.
More help comes in latter stages in the form of Victoria (Helen Mirren) and an unlikely ally in Ivan the Russian – apparently all Russians are called Ivan.
Karl Urban is secret service guy William Cooper charged with tracking down these elderly loose cannons, and Richard Dreyfuss makes a cameo as a man with all the answers.
What follows is a quite enjoyable but admittedly formulaic action-comedy with maximum damage and minimal good-guy casualties. It is one of those films where you have to laugh when someone explodes as it is all so ludicrous.
The good guys smile and crack jokes as they make hundreds of children orphans and the headline cast of guys more familiar holding awards instead of automatic weapons all seem to have a bit of a laugh laying waste to hundreds of fit young crack troops.
Despite the subject matter and head count this is all quite breezy, light and entertaining, with chuckles and explosions favoured over logic and realism.
At the conclusion of the film I wondered if this would be at all entertaining had it featured a bunch of young heavily muscled protagonists, then I answered my question pretty quickly when I realized this is The Losers Part 2, only set some 40 years on from the original.
I only the thought The Losers was so-so. I think Red would be marginally better if it had a cast of young ‘uns but not that much, So I guess at least part of the enjoyment was to found through the perverse pleasure of making broken hip jokes each time one of the stars threw themselves around or as Helen Mirren’s floppy arm skin wobbled as she blazed away with a massive machine gun at people a third her age.
The only significant downside is that for some reason one of the cast needed to find luuuuurrrrvve, hence the annoying Frank and Sarah subplot where she is supposed to go gooey as a guy who could be her Dad’s golfing buddy kills another crack soldier with his bare wrinkled hands.
If you miss seeing Red it is fair to say there will hardly be a massive gap in your life – but at the same time this is an enjoyable couple of hours and it is fun to see some of the senior cits get a chance to make a few guilt free kills.
Final Rating – 7.5 / 10. Kill a young bloke, have a cup of tea. Kill another young bloke, take a nap. Crack a joke, snap a neck. Lament the state of the world. Wonder why the kids don’t call – Oh yes, you killed them. It’s hard being a retired assassin.