Red, based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, follows Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), an ex CIA agent, plodding along in his retirement and flirting with his pension office rep Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) until a hit squad attempt a more permanent retirement. Flagged RED (retired extremely dangerous) by the CIA Moses must figure out whose trying to kill him with the help of some of his former colleagues: Joe (Morgan Freeman); Marvin (John Malkovitch); and Victoria (Helen Mirren).
Neither a full blown action film, comedy or a thriller. Pitting a bunch of pensioners against the CIA’s finest may not sound like the most promising of concepts and does, perhaps not unfairly, prompt the question of whether the likes of Willis have started to believe their own hype. Yet bizarrely it works. Perhaps it is the incredibly strong central cast that also includes Richard Dreyfuss and Brian Cox delivering their lines with a kind of credibility that is so often lacking that makes it work. I suspect however it is the fact that the film deftly blends the comedy and action in a blend that is just fun.
Willis is a good choice as the straight man to John Malkovitch’s oddball Marvin who owes more than a cursory nod to his robotic namesake in Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy. Mirren and Cox are an absolute delight staying just the right side of ham to be enjoyable with Freeman playing the noble wise man as only he can.
I’m not drawing comparisons with the graphic novel because I just don’t think that’s fair as they are different mediums. There were moments where I think Ellis’s humour came through but this was something a bit different, a fun film that didn’t take itself too seriously. Just what the doctor ordered.