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RED (2010)

CRUMBLIES… 4 crumblies

Ha! Fun! Sod your earnest demand for telling stories of old age, jump into two hours of comedy, violence and testy young murderers calling Bruce Willis ‘Grandpa’. Oh yes, an ex agent, hunted by modern agents, he is Retired & Extremely Dangerous: RED.

Old Jack and the crumblies loved this. The TV room was quiet at the start, and I was a tad embarrassed when others joined me, as Willis’s Frank was repeat dialling his pension provider to get new cheques, shoot the breeze and just hear a voice, any voice, but mostly the smirkilicious Mary-Louise Parker. She’s the love interest and in full-on side-glancing, mildly-affronted comedy form. Up against Willis’s slowly thawing deadpan, she and the two of them together are rather gorgeous. And on the issue of authetic oldness, he is in his late 50s, she is saying hello to her mid 40s. So, impossibly old in today’s terms…

Anyway, he’s an ex black ops agent, daring to have a life, when in storm a bunch of armed young agents. They try to kill him. He wrecks their plans and ambles away from a destroyed house. And he starts to gather fellow ex-agents, star turns all. Morgan Freeman is Joe, his mentor, properly ill in a care home, but still lethal (and not just in the toilet, ladies and gents). He tells Frank some journo has been killed for gathering names about an incident in ‘Nam: someone went crazy and killed a ton of people. Which is all very interesting as back-story, but the great stuff is in the now. Frank kidnaps Parker’s Sarah in order to protect her, and they investigate around America (superimposing the kind of postcards old Mrs Jack and I collected in the 1990s), slowly returning to the flirty friendship of their phone calls.

Oh! Whilst Karl Urban does a terrific job of running, driving, jumping and machine-gunning after them.


You will love this. Trust me. Park the brains, grab a beer, daiquiri or futuristic alco-caffeine suppository, and bask in wit, evil politicians, murderous black-ops agents and – oh yes – the actual Helen Mirren as the sexiest old (mid-60s) killer in the country. There’s a pile of delicious scenes with Parker’s innocent surprise counterpointing Mirren’s knowing, warm, motherly even, killer instincts. She retired, but couldn’t, so takes the occasional contract on the side…

This is Bruce Willis’s film by billing, but he acts as a steady, old (but not really – he’s been to the gym enough for fifty of us…and did I mention late 50s?), methodical and very, very lucky gentleman. In the TV room, the men were smirking and the women were admiring, and then oddly critical as we sighed for Dame Helen’s murderous ways. And that’s out of order – they also had Urban’s jaw and twinkly hair to enjoy.

RED makes no real points about old age, although Freeman’s scenes are faintly sad and he’s not a well man. There’s an underlying joy about the white-of-hair fighting their ancient grudges to the death, but it’s mostly in the character-acting on display. John Malkovich gives quality weird throughout (too many drugs forced on him, for too long), Brian Cox luxuriates in his fruity Russian oldster, and Richard Dreyfuss more than makes up for the awfulness of The Lightkeepers (2009) . Comedy rage, comedy hubris and comedy excellence abound. Mirren wins.

There’s some stuff about the Vice President being a tosser, viz ‘Nam, but who cares when the acting is this good, the explosions this big, and the caper this much fun?

Read this no more – rent RED.

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