It is relatively safe to say that Bruce Willis was a poster child for the modern action movie. His role as John McClane in the original "Die Hard" movie in 1988 single-handedly made him a perfect model for the action movie hero. Twenty-three years and three "Die Hard" sequels later (with a fifth "Die Hard" announced earlier this year), Willis is a household name, most recently making a cameo appearance as "Mr. Church" in Sylvester Stallone’s "The Expendables."
With all of that said, however, one thing is certain: Willis is not getting any younger. But not to worry; if Willis’s role as retired black ops agent Frank Moses in the Robert Schwentke-directed "Red," based on the graphic novel by DC Comics, is any indication, then it is quite clear the man can still act. With explosive comedy, literally, and an all-star cast, "Red" is perhaps what "The Expendables" could have been, and then some.
The film opens with Moses going through a monotonous daily routine that seems typical for the average middle-aged retired man: he wakes up, eats breakfast and checks the mail. When he finds a pension check among his mail, he calls the pension office to speak to his service representative, Sarah Roses (Mary-Louise Parker, TV’s "Weeds"), with whom he has developed a relationship over the phone. That night, a black ops squad attempts to kill him in his own house, only to be wiped out by Moses in a comically over-the-top fashion. Realizing the CIA is trying to kill him, as well as Sarah, he travels to Kansas City, Mo. to find Sarah and take her to safety, though she thinks he is kidnapping her.
From there, he decides to find out why the government wants him dead and enlists the help of fellow former agents Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman, "The Dark Knight") and Victoria (Helen Mirren, "The Queen"), as well as paranoid conspiracy theorist Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich, "Burn After Reading") to aid him in his pursuits. Meanwhile, CIA agent Cooper (Karl Urban, "Star Trek") has been assigned to track down and kill Moses and his team, as they have been declared "RED" (Retired, Extremely Dangerous.)
As the movie progresses, another of Moses’s former squad, Alexander Dunning (Richard Dreyfuss, "Mr. Holland’s Opus"), seems to be involved with the killing orders that Cooper and the other CIA agents have been given. The story culminates in a thrilling climax, in which Moses and his team must fight to rescue Roses from the clutches of the CIA and uncover the real reasons why they are being targeted.
"Red" manages to be intensely adrenaline-filled while at the same time being equally as hilarious, something many action-comedies fail to accomplish. As mentioned above, the casting of Willis as Moses is perfect, considering the number of jabs people have taken at the actor in recent years regarding his age. Freeman’s acting is as flawless as ever, and though Mirren’s character is quite different from her other roles, she manages to provide an excellent performance. Parker’s role as Roses, however, is not as spot-on as her fellow cast members, as her character is not adequately fleshed out. The film’s special effects and general cinematography are spectacular throughout.
Overall, "Red" provides a blend of action and humor that proves to be especially entertaining, and is well worth the price of admission.