Review: Red

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The Pitch: C.I.A. vs. O.A.P.s.

The Review: There’s been a trend over the last twenty years or so of action movie stars getting increasingly elderly. Maybe it’s our ever increasing fondness for nostalgia, or perhaps the novelty of seeing old fogies with big guns appeals as much in theory as the opposite, extremely young end of the scale that Hit Girl and her friends occupy. But for whatever reason, action stars have kept making movies as they get older, and indeed movies are now taking this a step further and making action stars out of the bus pass generation.

Based on a Warren Ellis comic book, RED has compiled a cast list with varying familiarity with the action genre. Bruce Willis has the most extensive action CV, and although into his fifties is still deemed sufficiently cool to be leading man material. John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman both have history in this genre, but in both cases it’s less auspicious in the relative terms of their previous works. Crucially, while all of them can normally be relied on to deliver good work, none of them is a reliable mark of quality when it comes to bullets and explosions. They are all at least serviceable here, although Willis especially is little more than that.

But they are just the tip of an iceberg that’s made of acting quality so solid it would put a hole in your average battleship. Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss and even Ernest Borgnine, who was retired before I was in short trousers, all pop up, often far too briefly. Getting more screen time are Mary Louise Parker as Bruce’s love interest, wandering through wide-eyed and screaming, and a rather stoic Karl Urban as the man sent to track down and round up this bunch of geriatric gunslingers. The biggest stunt of the casting is Helen Mirren, who gets a very big gun and smiles sweetly as she twists most of the male cast around her little finger.

So what do you make out of a comic book and a bunch of willing actors of generally advancing years? Director Robert Schwentke, whose previous form peaked with the Jodie Foster snoozefest Flightplan, manages to make a serviceable and lightly enjoyable action movie, with the odd entertaining set piece and a few mildly smirk-worthy lines, but it never really gets into top gear. It is worth saying, though, that the action is at least clean and generally well handled, and avoids the camera fitting and shaking so prevalent in today’s action movies. It will take up an hour and a half of your time divertingly enough, but that’s also about how long it will last in your memory – and, given the age of the cast, it’s probably about how long it lasted in theirs as well.

Why see it at the cinema: Some solid, well handled action, a few decent laughs and an absolutely killer last scene which mixes both will all get benefit from a large screen and some company.

The Score: 7/10

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