Director: Robert Schwentke;
Cast: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Morgan Freeman;
Middle of the year saw the release of ‘The Expendables’ where old guns, literally, and in the film, try to outsmart the young. Though a good geriatric combo, the film lacked the melancholy and wisdom of age. Thankfully the correction comes in the form of ‘Red’, meaning ‘Retired Extremely Dangerous’.
Retired CIA veteran Frank (Willis) likes Sarah (Parker) who he has only talked to on the phone. When his own ex-agency sends assassins to kill him, he not only has to escape, but also forcibly take Sarah to protect her. Hot on his trail is CIA black-ops man Cooper (Urban).
In a battle for survival, Frank takes the help of not only old friends, but old, sworn enemies to get to the bottom of why he is being targeted.
Though ‘Red’ begins a little shakily, it regains form and once it gets going it proves to be a delectable fine balance for an action comedy thriller. Not only does it not let down on the adrenalin, it delivers a mature dose of laughter and action.
The main strength of the film is its casting. John Malkovich is particularly delightful in his quirkiness. Helen Mirren firing a big machinegun, a very masculine ‘toy’, would be the super fantasy woman not just of the old, but also young females.
The metaphor of the film is that when you are old you have to stick together. If youth has physical prowess and agility, age has wisdom and perspective. If used effectively, experience can easily outsmart the combination of technology and youth.
‘Red’ is a coming of ‘age’ film for the old spies. When they were young they had blind ambition. Old age has given them depth and a vision to see the big picture. The character of the young spy Cooper provides this contrast.
The film has many small, quirky but silent details that add to its enjoyment. Like the small sub-plot of the American agent who loved a spy from Russia but had to shoot him when ordered, yet does not shoot him dead, only to be rejoined with him in old age.
The characterisation of even minor players is handled well. The love angle between Frank and Sarah is thankfully underplayed.
Though based on a popular graphic novel, the film makes many changes to the otherwise gory and serious book, turning it light and funny. Hopefully the REDs would be back for another cinematic outing.