Bruce Willis (in a performance mix of John McClane and AARP) plays retired CIA operative Frank Moses, who finds himself on a death list being carried out by the very organization he served. Frank goes on the run, and it’s to the misfortune of Sarah, his lonely Social Security administrator (a hilarious Mary-Louise Parker), that she’s been conducting an over-the-phone flirtation with him: the CIA have her on radar, so Frank drags her along for the ride, ostensibly for her own safety. Along the way, they meet up with Frank’s former colleagues–all of them over the hill and on the same execution schedule–and that they’re played by Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman and Brian Cox, is no small testament to casting genius. The re-banded assassins battle time and rheumatism to uncover a plot that leads straight to Washington, improbably dodging a fireworks show of bullets and blasts as they go.
John and Erich Hoeber have crafted a sharp screenplay that moves fluidly between show-stopping action, a fine conspiracy plot, and a parade of very funny geriatric jokes. All of this could have been a colossal failure, of course, if not for the terrific performances, especially by Mirren, who carries an Uzi as if she really means it, and Malkovich, as an uber-paranoid recluse willing to shoot someone in the head simply because they “smell like CIA.” The action, when it comes, has all the suspense and grandeur of a Die Hard movie. And if it seems impossible that five sexagenarians could walk away from constant physical punishment with nary a blemish, well, wait until you see them kicking ass and taking names.
This one’s all about perception. Can you suspend your disbelief long enough to accept that these people, at this stage in their lives, are capable of escaping rocket launchers and hand-grenades? If not, then expect to be loaded with incredulity. But, if you can sit back, relax, and understand that none of this is meant to be taken seriously, you’ll probably have a hell of a lot of fun with Red.