Summit Entertainment, Rated PG-13
Bruce Willis’ last outing, this summer’s The Expendables, found him amassing the star power of Stallone, Rourke, Jet Li, Lundgren, Arnie and Statham. In Robert Schwentke’s Red, he’s assembling an elder ragtag team, including John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman and, yes, Helen Mirren. A different cast and a different objective: Where The Expendables were fixated on blowing things up, his band of over-the-hill undercover hotheads in Red is mostly just kidding.
Bruce Willis is Frank Moses, a retired black-ops CIA agent with only a withered avocado sprouting leaves on a toothpick on his kitchen table for company. Lonely as hell, Moses is also cultivating a PG kind of phone sex crush on his not exactly unreceptive pension service worker Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) by regularly ripping up his retirement checks and calling her for replacements. The unrequited lovebirds are likewise reading the same romance novels at bedtime, in some sort of prolonged instance of celibate desire.
But when the agency decides one day for an as-yet-unrevealed reason that Moses is expendable, they send a team of assassins in a home-invasion operation. Moses has no problem deflecting the intruders while in his bathrobe. Sensing that he’s being targeted for the afterlife, the equally brainy and brawny former operative moves out quickly—without taking his furniture—and plans to confront and neutralize the unseen enemy by reassembling his former covert team—including Joe (Freeman), stuck in a nursing home with stage-4 liver cancer, and Marvin (Malkovich), who’s turned paranoid psycho survivalist. He also adds a resistant Sarah (she suspects his CIA confessional is just a seduction ploy), whose life he assesses is in danger, even if she doesn’t.
Surfacing along the way is White House subterfuge that might be labeled as a movie subheading All The Vice-President’s Men, which is then linked to a supremely shady war crimes cover-up in Guatemala. But in a comic book satire based on the Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer DC Comics cult fave, none of this matters. What does matter is not taking a bit of the delightfully lunatic raucous action thriller pandemonium seriously.