Director    Robert Schwentke
Starring    Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary Louise-Parker, Karl Urban, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfus
Release    15 OCT (US) 22 OCT (UK)    Certificate 12A
3 stars


25th October 2010

Think back to The A-Team's tagline: "There is no Plan B". Seeing as RED is the fourth movie this year that features a group of highly-skilled heroes who enjoy banter between gunfights, after The A-TeamThe Losers, and The Expendables, it would seem that not only is there is a Plan B, there's a Plan C and a Plan D as well.

Whilst they all carry the same general idea, none of them do it with as much class and wit as RED. The Expendables may have boasted '80s action heroes, but it didn't have The Queen firing big-ass guns and throwing threats of death all of over the place. Think harder, Sly.

When his peaceful but achingly dull suburban retirement is rudely interrupted by a hit squad, former Black Ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) reassembles his old crew (codename: RED - "Retired, Extremely Dangerous") in an effort to find out who was behind the hit, whilst uncovering a conspiracy that goes all the way to Washington by way of a somewhat convoluted story, hit-lists, explosions and old man jokes.

[gallery]Loosely based on the three darker DC graphic novels of the same name, this is a decidedly more comedic affair than creators Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner would've perhaps preferred. Nonetheless, director Robert Schwentke and writers Jon and Erich Hoeber have done a bang-up job padding out the graphic novel's slim plot.

A whirlwind road trip ensues as Frank goes about getting the team back together. With his abducted Pensions Officer, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker of Weeds) in tow, it's bus passes at the ready as they head to a New Orleans retirement home for Joe (Morgan Freeman), followed by a swift jaunt to The Everglades for the paranoid and slightly deranged Marvin (a scene-stealing John Malkovich). Then it's off to a lovely little B&B run by the trigger-happy Victoria (Helen Mirren).

After the likes of Gran Torino, Harry Brown and The Expendables, the idea of oldies with guns, teaching youngsters a thing or two, is certainly one with plenty of legs. And RED plays it all for laughs, not taking itself too seriously and simply having fun with the idea. The cast are certainly having lots of it.

Regardless of it being a good 20 years since Die Hard, Bruce Willis still doesn't have a problem with stretching out that role: a wise-cracking hard-ass who's good at disposing of generic bad guys. His deadpan demeanour works a treat. He's still got it, illustrated by him nonchalantly stepping out of a spinning car whilst unloading his pistol.

But seeing Oscar winners Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman letting loose and waving guns about the place is perhaps the film's biggest draw - it's just a shame Freeman doesn't get much screen time. John Malkovich's unstable, Murdoch-esque Marvin steals the film, delivering a delightfully exaggerated performance: a combination of Burn After Reading's Osbourne Cox and Cyrus The Virus.

Unfortunately, the heavyweight cast is also its greatest downfall - RED relies too much on their mighty presence and the story quickly becomes a convoluted, overblown, fuzzy mess. What is a pretty bog-standard action story plays out in an overly-complicated fashion. Until Victoria helpfully sums it all up, we're all left a little puzzled.

Thankfully, the experienced cast ensures the film never lacks charisma, keeping it chugging along nicely. Despite stretching out for almost two hours, never once does it get boring. And if you thought the combined age wasn't old enough, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfus and Ernest Borgnine are on hand for a couple of decent cameos.

Red delivers what it promises - a stylish, incredibly silly action comedy that's boosted by the high calibre actors involved. They're certainly not too old for this shit.

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