Bruce Willis’ latest action-comedy film, “RED,” in which he plays a former spook who's been classified “Retired, Extremely Dangerous,” has the star returning to form after the misstep that was “Cop Out” and his throwaway role in “The Expendables.”
Willis stars as Frank Morris, a very dangerous man who used to do wet work for the CIA. Now retired, he awakens at precisely 6 a.m. each day—without the aid of an alarm—spending his time desperately trying to hold boredom at bay. The tedium is disrupted late one night when he is targeted by a hit squad big enough to overthrow a small country. Frank quickly realizes that he’s gonna need help figuring why exactly people are coming after him, and so one by one, he reconnects with his colleagues.
The team Frank assembles features some of the best 55-and-over actors working today: Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. You couldn’t ask for a much better cast, unfortunately, none of their characters feel fully formed. Morgan is the sly old dog, Malkovich the LSD-damaged madman and Mirren the sexy killer, all played to a T. But there’s no arc to them, none of them get to develop at all. Fans of the original comic will be doubly frustrated by these characters because they were concocted specially for the film, having never appeared in the books.
Willis can still do the steely tough guy with a smirk as well as anyone, his swagger and charm are in full effect here. And he nicely conveys the exhausting ennui that drives Morris to call the office that cuts his pension checks as a pretense to chat with Sara, played Mary Louise Parker.
Karl Urban is fantastic as Agent William Cooper, the CIA agent assigned with bringing Morris in. He’s the perfect blend of trained killer and devoted family man, with a gift for both rough and tumble action sequences, as displayed in “The Bourne Supremacy,” and the sense of humor he brought to Bones in “Star Trek.” And hats off to whomever had the idea to cast Ernest Borgnine as “The Records Keeper.” His goofy affability and outrageous eyebrows are just what the part called for.
Director Robert Schwentke’s action sequences are both tightly crafted and completely over-the-top, with a comic flair that you wouldn’t expect from the guy who did “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” If only he had as strong a sense of timing in the editing room as he does in building a scene. The film’s greatest weakness is it’s too damn long, coming it at a way-more-than-necessary 111 minutes, when it easily could’ve been a ripping 95 minutes. Exacerbating the issue is the fact that too many of the film’s best moments were shown online. And the film has three endings, each one dumber than the last.
“RED” is a lot of fun, loaded with great action and wit, but fails to live up to its own hype or the comic book that spawned it. Ironically, you’ll enjoy it most if you’re not a hardcore movie buff (the type who watches every trailer and clip) or a fan of the source material.