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Video Reviews

Plugged In Rating
MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Action/Adventure, Comedy
Cast
Bruce Willis as Frank Moses; Morgan Freeman as Joe Matheson; Helen Mirren as Victoria; John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs; Mary-Louise Parker as Sarah; Karl Urban as William Cooper; Richard Dreyfuss as Alexander Dunning
Director
Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler's Wife, Flightplan)
Distributor
Summit Entertainment
In Theaters
October 15, 2010
On Video
January 25, 2011
Reviewer
Bob Hoose
RED

Retired life isn't easy for Frank Moses.

It's not that he doesn't want to live a more normal and relaxed lifestyle—maybe even try his hand at a real relationship or two—but all those years of working as a CIA black-ops agent have made "normal" a little tough to grab hold of.

Besides, he's not really rocking chair age quite yet. He's just a little too old for government standards when it comes to all the rough-and-tumble get-your-hands-dirty stuff. So he's classified as R-E-D, meaning Retired-Extremely-Dangerous. And he's sent off to greener pastures. But from Frank's perspective that top-secret classification should read B-O-R-E-D.

And so, day after day, week after week, Frank can usually be found either restlessly rambling around his little house, following his regular exercise routines or occasionally striking up a phone conversation with a nice-sounding female rep at his pension office. But then a little something happens.

It's no big deal, really. A minor wrinkle.

A squad of hit men show up in the middle of the night and rip Frank's house to shreds with high-caliber weapons. The retired pro handles the situation with ease, of course. But he quickly realizes that retirement may need to be put off for a while.

If he's a target, then those he knows—including the nice-sounding pension rep—are probably in someone's sights, too. In fact, with his history, this deadly problem could reach all the way up to people of power and influence. And it might get very, very messy.

Thank goodness.

Positive Elements

For all the implied nastiness that's been a part of Frank's CIA history, the former agent comes off as an upright individual who truly cares for the country he's served and the fellow agents he's served with.

And even though Frank has to, in effect, kidnap the pension office clerk, Sarah, he does so to save her life. Opposing agents make no secret of the fact that they want to grab Sarah and use her in any way necessary to hurt their true target. And Frank repeatedly goes out of his way to protect her, even when it would be very easy to just walk away.

All of the retired agents Frank gathers to crack a massive conspiracy are instantly ready to take a bullet, if necessary, for the cause (and several of them do). In fact, one purposely walks into the enemy's line of fire in hopes of giving his friends a chance to escape.

Sexual Content

Some of the women at a State event wear low-cut tops or dresses. Sarah shows a fair amount of cleavage while struggling to free herself after being tied to a bed. Sending an eager date on his way, Sarah says aloud, "You live with your mother; you're not getting any of this." Frank's friend Joe eyes a nursing home attendant's backside. Sarah and Frank kiss. There's a line or two about somebody thinking somebody else is gay. The sexual term "hard-on" is appropriated for a nonsexual purpose, as are the words "balls," "nuts" and "nipples."

Violent Content

Explosions erupt, bullets fly and fists smack, but the whole affair is kept as afternoon-matinee polite as possible—at least for a PG-13 movie made in 2010.

Some of the bigger bangs/booms include a woman being obliterated by the blast from her own RPG (the bloody result is not seen), a house being ripped to pieces by automatic gunfire and a shootout between agents that shreds the hotel scenery like a cheese grater. Several high-speed car chases leave vehicles crunched and smoking.

Some of the more up-close-and-personal moments include a martial arts-laced brawl between Frank and a young agent named Cooper. The two slam each other around an office, smashing furniture and breaking through glass panels. In the end, both men are bloodied—Frank is shot in the shoulder and Cooper's arm is broken. Later, a retired agent named Victoria is also shot and holds a bloody hand to her waist.

Dozens of other CIA agents and Secret Service agents are killed or wounded. For example, in one night scene, Frank is set upon by a group of masked assassins. He pummels and shoots them and they fall in the shadows. Later he hands a bag of the men's effects to another agent for identification. The agent opens the bag, and we briefly see dismembered fingers inside.

Former agent Marvin speaks of once being tortured by electrodes. Later, he suggests using torture devices on someone else. "Nuts, nipples or potty trainer?" he asks. Frank quickly demurs.

Victoria takes notice of Frank's affection for Sarah and warns the young woman, "If you break his heart, I will kill you and bury your body in the woods."

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word, one s-word. A half-dozen misuses of God's and Christ's names (God's is combined with "d‑‑n" three times). Other profanities include a handful of the words "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑" and "b‑‑ch." There's one use of the British profanity "b-gger."

Drug and Alcohol Content

After a date, Sarah takes a swig from a bottle of beer. When Frank approaches an aged Russian agent, the two sit and toss back glasses of vodka for old times' sake. People drink wine and cocktails at a State event.

A bad guy injects Sarah with a hypo full of drugs. After Frank rescues her she says, "I am high." Frank tells Sarah that Marvin had been given a daily dose of LSD by government officials for 11 years.

Other Negative Elements

In the course of uncovering clues, Frank and Sarah lie to a murder victim's mother. They break into CIA headquarters. They steal a police car. The old Russian agent says, "I miss old days. I haven't killed anyone in years." Frank replies, "That's sad."

Somebody refers to himself as a "Jew boy."

Conclusion

RED blends heroic actions with polished CGI, likeable characters with a light dose of conspiratorial tension. Then it peppers the whole thing with just the right amount of winking, tongue-in-cheek humor. It's not like there's anything deep or meaningful going on. The movie just seems to work on a certain basic entertainment level.

In fact, this pic is so well cast, paced and balanced that you almost forget it's about killing people. There's not a lot of blood and guts—red-soaked shirts, rough-and-tumble broken bones and a bloody lip or two tend to be the worst of what's on display—but bad guys are shot down or blown up by the basketful. And a few good guys join them, too.

Somehow worse than all that slam-bang, though, is the fact that the film makes the gun blazing look so cool. An example: Frank and Sarah are speeding away in a stolen police car when they're slammed into by a pursuing agent's auto. In one fluid, slo-mo movement, Frank slips out the front door of his still moving car, finds his cat-like footing, dodges twirling sheet metal and starts pumping his pursuer's vehicle full of pinpoint-accurate gunfire. Nobody is killed or even badly hurt, but the ballet-like perfection of the moment can't help but illicit a drawn-out "cooooool" from anyone watching.

I guess in a way I'd compare going to see this film to going to the fair and buying some kind of junk food on the spur of the moment. You buy it because you think it'll satisfy your sweet tooth, even though you know it's probably not really good for you. It's definitely going to start clogging up something important somewhere.

Translation: RED is a chocolate-drizzled deep-fried Twinkie of a movie.

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