If you look for neither the plausible nor the possible, you may have as much fun as I did.

RED

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

            Technically, RED as an action comedy. But the truth is that it's a king size spoof rooted in next to nothing - and all the better for it. If you look for neither the plausible nor the possible, you may have as much fun as I did.
            Once the Berlin Wall fell in a spectacular ending to the Cold War, spy writers had to find other villains - often China, then the middle east. Surely we deserve a moment of frivolity between extinction threatened first by Old Russia and now by radicalized Jihadists on one hand and Chinese cyber warriors on the other.
            Granted, RED is violent frivolity - a comic strip of explosions and machine gun fire, but it is silly stuff, fun to watch and born of a neat idea. Consider the premise: RED stands for RETIRED, EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. After Bruce Willis (Frank), retired CIA black ops specialist, is targeted in his home by a gang of black ops wet invaders, he knows he must reassemble his old team of killers to find out who is trying to do him in. There is a death list, you see, and all his buddies are on it.
            With a first stop in Kansas City to kidnap Mary Louise Parker (Sarah) the woman whose voice he has fallen in love with during a telephone flirtation over his retirement checks, he searches for the others - all a neat excuse for the filmmakers to parade elderly and beloved superstars across the screen in unaccustomed roles.
            Willis finds Morgan Freeman (Joe) in a New Orleans retirement home; former enemy Brian Cox (Ivan) in dark seclusion, John Malkovich (Marvin) in a paranoid's dream house accessible only through the trunk of a parked car, and at last, Helen Mirren at her most grand, serving Christmas tea and flowers with an aside, "I take the odd contract on the side." The running joke, of course, is that all of them miss the business of killing and can't wait to get back to it.
            Knowing who is chasing them (CIA), they still must find out why. During a wacky confrontation in Langley, we learn that the real villains are the CEO of a weapons manufacturing company and the U.S. vice president/Dick Cheney. And did I forget to mention 90 plus Ernest Borgnine as an archivist? Or that Mary Louise Parker's Sarah is simply delighted to be kidnapped from her Kansas City boredom?
            The main show, however, is watching iconic actors generate comic chemistry. It's great fun to watch experts at play. Who won't smile widely at Helen Mirren wrapped in fur and wearing box boots while pumping a Tommy gun from a grove of trees, or John Malkovich disguised as a pile of leaves? Perhaps best of all is the metaphorical peace between Russia and the Allies as Mirren and Cox rekindle a Cold War love. If you can't smile at this one, then I suggest humbly that you need to chill.

 


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