Thursday, November 18, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: Red

RED-- 3 STARS

http://www.red-themovie.com/
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1245526/

In today's day and age, everyone is angling for some kind of retirement.  Turn on the television or open up a magazine and we are inundated with commercials aimed at 50-to-70-something retirees ranging from financial investments and cars to beauty and hygiene products.  Everyone with a 401K, a 403b, or a IRA is looking for their chance at the gold watch, the AARP card, the brass ring, and to retire to a more peaceful time for themselves away from the rat-race of their former professions.  Even former government agents and assassins search for it too.

However, just like with other retirements and professions, former killers find that retired living just doesn't beat the "good old days."  No matter if they "still have it" or not, a great many retirees become very bored once they attain the solitude and closure they worked so hard for.  Black ops or not, the retired commonly long for a chance to relive their youth.  The new movie Red plays a little bit of that out.

Red is loosely based on a DC comic miniseries and is stands for the acronym of "Retired, Extremely Dangerous."  That's the final label stamp put on the files of retired government agents, like Bruce Willis's Frank Moses, Morgan Freeman's Joe Matheson, John Malkovich's Marvin Boggs, and Helen Mirren's Victoria.  Former associates, each of them has adjusted to retired life differently.  Frank lives with rote routine while attempting to flirt with his Social Security customer service associate (Mary Louise-Parker of TV's Weeds) over the phone on the other side of the country.  Joe is living in a retirement home terminally ill with cancer.  Marvin is a paranoid wacko (naturally, come on, it's Malkovich) living in a bunker off the grid.  Finally, Victoria lives the lavish country mansion lifestyle.

All of them are, without a doubt, past their prime, but have enough smarts, skill, and savvy to show up the young guys and still take care of business when thrust into action.  As it turns out, a failed top-secret op from their past threatens to damage the reputation of the Vice President, also a former teammate, while he's running for the top job.  The truth is trying to be dusted under the rug, which puts our retirees on a hit list to be taken out to bury the failure.  Clearly, they crossed the wrong old folks.  Frank escapes a hit squad to put the band back together to clear their names and expose the truth.

With this premise, Red is a fun action-comedy that doesn't take itself too seriously and definitely doesn't have to.  It's an A-Team for the Viagra crowd.  There's enough mystery in their preposterous mission to create a suspenseful puzzle to keep your attention, while balanced with enough bullet-filled "too-old-for-this-shit" moments to really entertain.

That balance is achieved by a dynamite cast from top to bottom.  It's a blast to watch Bruce Willis still take a punch as good as he gives one, and nobody plays a bat-shit crazy cuckoo bird like Malkovich.  Adding Academy Award winners Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren to the fun only turns up the entertainment volume.  Everyone is having a good time and it shows.  We also get great supporting work from Karl Urban (Star Trek and Doom) as their younger CIA pursuer and quirky little parts from Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfus, and Ernest Borgnine.  Red is an easy action comedy that pulls off the satisfying entertainment that many of its big-budget counterparts can't do with twice the budget. 

LESSON #1: DON'T TAKE OLD PEOPLE FOR GRANTED-- They may be older, bald, hiding a few wrinkles, gray around the edges, and paying enough on prescription drugs to mortgage a small house, but that doesn't mean people of retirement age don't still have their chops and skills.  Take a good look at that elderly greeter at Walmart.  For all you know, they might have been the high school quarterback or the homecoming queen. 

LESSON #2: PROFESSIONALS ARE PROFESSIONALS FOR LIFE BECAUSE THEY ARE GOOD AT WHAT THEY DO--  It doesn't matter what your former profession was.  If you do a job long enough at a high level, you never lose those skills.  Like they say, it's like riding a bike, even if your bike is small arms, heavy weapons, sniper rifles, or explosives.  If 63-year-old retired Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan can throw a 68mph fastball as a ceremonial first pitch for a World Series game, then Helen Mirren can still nail you through her cross-hairs from 300 yards after trimming roses for her garden earlier in the day. 

LESSON #3: RETIRED LIFE IS A SECOND LIFE--  With today's advances in medicine and health care coupled with early retirement ages, retired life can be as long as a second lifetime.  If you work a job for 30 or so years after graduating from college at the age of 22, then you might retire in your early 50s.  If you live into your 80s, you may be living the retired life for another 30 years.  You might as well plan accordingly or make the most of the time you have.  Keep yourself occupied and stay sharp.  You never know when you might need the skills from Lesson #2.