RED (12A): On General Release 22nd October
Bruce Willis has spent his last few Hollywood movies trying to convince us he’s not over the hill (Surrogates, Die Hard 4), so it comes as no surprise that in Red in which he plays a retired CIA operative , he’s still just as dangerous as John McClane was back in the day.
After surviving an assassination attempt at his home, Frank (Willis) visits Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a call centre employee who he’s been flirting with on the phone and abducts her in order to keep her out of trouble. He then picks up some of his old buddies up in order to find out why he’s being targeted. These are eighty-something Joe (Morgan Freeman), surly Russian Ivan (Brian Cox), the paranoid and unhinged Marvin (John Malkovich – who else?) and sexy English rose and sniper Victoria (Helen Mirren).
They’re being pursued by current CIA operative Cooper (Karl Urban) who’s trying to track Frank down and unravel a conspiracy which stems from a job Frank pulled in 80s Guatemala.
Seeing a cast of this of old school favourites (such was the falsely advertised appeal of The Expendables released earlier this year) hamming it up to cartoonish proportions is initially enjoyable but by the second half, proceedings have started to run out of steam as the story has nowhere to go.
Basically the joke is that they’re old and can still kick some ass and once that gets tired, it simply becomes a fairly average action movie. Action set pieces are what you’d expect but are otherwise unremarkable – a fist fight between Urban and Willis and a scene in which Malkovich shoots a missile in mid-air are among the highlights but there’s nothing here that’s fresh or innovative.
For a film with such a high rate of fire (sometimes it feels like Sylvester Stallone is breaking out Rambo 5 a little early) no one actually seems to die (no doubt to keep the rating to a tepid 12A). It feels like an episode of The A-Team, where people can be defeated by being thrown really far and the only casualties are the ones necessary for plot progression. That said, for the most part Red is a fun, ridiculous, popcorn movie that never takes itself too seriously.
Mary Louise-Parker as Sarah is sadly underused – with no skills of her own, she’s carted from location to location and seems to warm to a bunch of gun-toting senior citizens a little too readily. The film could also benefit for more screen time from Karl Urban, who proved his chops as Bones in Star Trek but here is sidelined here in favour of the older cast members.
It’s a movie that’s attraction lies in the star power of its cast which is admittedly noteworthy (the film could almost be sold on the image of Helen Mirren holding a machine gun) but when you start to expect a little more, it’s readily apparent that Red is firing blanks.