Bored, lonely retiree Frank Moses (Willis) is wanting some excitement, but a squad of assassins dropping in is not what he had in mind. Something in Frank's past with the CIA has made him a target, so it's time to get the band back together, all of them designated 'Retired: Extremely Dangerous'.
Well, you have to laugh. Which, since RED is a comic thriller, adapted from Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner’s darker graphic novel, is fortunate. Over 20 years since Die Hard, Bruce Willis is still playing that guy — sardonic, wisecracking, good at killing (though he does so without exposing as much of his torso) — and it works a treat. This time Willis is ex-CIA agent Frank Moses, who in retirement mystifyingly lives in Ohio suburbia pretending he was just an analyst and finding excuses to ring single civil servant Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who deals with his pension, so he can flirt a bit long-distance. That he also reads romance novels is perhaps a humorous touch too much.
But commando types confuse his house with a Taliban hideout, forcing him to hit the road and gather a unit of black ops alum. It’s a scenic trip — Joe (Morgan Freeman) is in a New Orleans retirement home and wacko Marvin (John Malkovich) is in the Florida Everglades. En route Frank abducts Sarah, who finds it all a turn-on, and picks up Victoria (Helen Mirren), an ex-assassin running a B&B. Age hasn’t drained their survival skills, nor their skullduggery. The film glosses over their horrible pasts, dwelling instead on fellowship and the value of seasoned older people with experience. Isn’t that nice? Without spoiling anything, it will come as no surprise that working out why they are on a hit list reveals a conspiracy that leads to — where else? — the top, or at least to the rich and powerful with things to hide.
We also meet a former Russian foe (Brian Cox), a sneering Urban charged with eliminating the wrinklies and Julian McMahon as a weaselly Presidential hopeful. Richard Dreyfuss and old Ernie Borgnine are also wheeled on, in case the combined age of the principals wasn’t close enough to 1,000.
Fans of the comics will find this lighter, if a likable lark with action and revenge. Robert Schwentke (Flightplan, The Time Traveler’s Wife) keeps it on the rails despite the source material being slim on plot. That shows in not-very-surprising developments that rely on cast appreciation over startling invention.
Good fun, and though it breathes hard in the second half, the ensemble has charisma to spare.