Urban Cinefile
"Phar Lap was the ultimate loser - adored and even pickled in formaldehyde once good and dead and murdered."  -The Bitch, in Urban Cinefile, about Australia's love of losers
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday May 22, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Frank (Bruce Willis), Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) used to be the CIA's top agents. Living in retirement, Frank is nurturing an interest - by phone - in Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), the young woman at the pensions office which sends his cheques. But before he can arrange a face to face meeting, his past smashes its way into his present and threatens his future. The secrets he and his old team know have made them the Agency's top targets. Framed for assassination on foreign soil, they have no choice but to do what they do best: survive at all costs and against all enemies. That includes the Agency's toughest attack dog, William Cooper (Karl Urban). The team embarks on a desperate mission to break into the top-secret CIA vault - the one that doesn't exist - where they uncover one of the biggest cover-ups in government history.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I don't know if the CIA gets royalties from every film made in which they are key players, but they probably should; it would lessen the load on the US taxpayer. Only these past few weeks there was the Australian release of Knight and Day, in which Tom Cruise plays an ex-CIA agent on the run, dragging innocent citizen Cameron Diaz into the fray with comic and thrilling results. In RED (Retired: Extremely Dangerous), it's Bruce Willis dragging innocent citizen Mary-Louise Parker into the fray with comic and thrilling results.

RED, however, is somewhat more serious, although there are quite a few laughs; it isn't sending up either the genre nor do the actors send themselves up along with their characters as in Knight and Day. RED is an exhilarating and immensely entertaining movie relying on the old battleships of the screen to come out guns blazing for a sunset thriller with exceptionally high stakes. Stakes that justify high voltage tension and deadly danger.

The screenplay is clever but basically simple; without giving too much away, it's about a crazed multiple killing in a foreign country executed by a US soldier who is now in high office - and intending to go higher. To cover up this dirty secret, the retired CIA 'Black Ops' team is implicated and singled out for covert assassination. You can imagine their reaction.

Bruce Willis does what Bruce Willis does best, with terrific support from Morgan Freeman (who now lives in a retirement home) and the edgy John Malkovich who makes a spectacular entrance. Mary-Louise Parker is marvellous as Sarah, who is not at all sure she has met Mr Right when she is dragged kicking and screaming (literally) into Frank's life. Not to be left behind is Helen Mirren as Victoria, whose circumstances have changed and whose past is one of the film's best and most entertaining subplots.

Brian Cox is almost unrecognisable as Ivan Simanov the Russian envoy and delivers a complete characterisation, as does the cast against type Richard Dreyfuss as a corporate wheeler dealer deeply involved in it all. Karl Urban is a great villain as the CIA's attack dog pursuing Frank at any price, and dear old Ernest Borgnine has a welcome cameo deep in the bowels of the CIA.

Funtastic and escapist, it's little wonder RED got the green light; it's full of well observed characterisation, detail and is fitted out with an almost credible ultimate baddie. An ultra cool movie.

Review by Louise Keller:
A freefall of an action thriller with laughs and class, RED couples a high concept with endearing minutiae as dastardly characters charm, alarm and entertain us. Based on a graphic novel, we are taken on a fishing expedition for much of this action-filled film, as we try to grapple with what is going on. Who is Bruce Willis' Frank Moses? Why does everyone want to kill him and who is this bunch of disparate former CIA agents that he teams up with?

There's John Malkovich as Marvin, a man with a history of LSD and impulsive behaviour; Morgan Freeman is Joe, who is keeping out of sight in a retirement home; Brian Cox cranks it up as Ivan, the vodka-loving Russian with a soft spot for a girl called Bunny; Helen Mirren is divine as Victoria, the elegant blonde who loves baking, flower arranging and killing. Karl Urban is William Cooper, the agent who will go to any lengths to capture Frank. Julian McMahon makes his mark as a man in high office. Central to it all is Bruce Willis' former CIA agent, who is clearly tough on the outside and gooey on the inside - when it comes to matters of the heart, that is. While the descriptive codename RED on his classified file, locked away by Ernest Borgnine's amiable record keeper spells Retired: Extremely Dangerous, it is only the first word that is inaccurate. And then there is Mary-Louise Parker's Sarah, the only innocent in this tale. She is the girl who lives in Kansas City who yearns for travel and adventure and gets more than she bargains for.

After an establishment sequence in which Frank chats flirtatiously several times on the phone to Sarah, heavy artillery and explosions suddenly replace our anticipation of a romantic meeting. Like the camera, we jump, zoom, flip from one location to the next. The circumstances are far from predictable as is everything that happens in this syncopated film that sizzles with director Robert Schwentke's feather-light touch and in which attitude flies as high as our spirits.

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(US, 2010)

CAST: Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Brian Cox, Julian McMahon, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss

PRODUCER: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian

DIRECTOR: Robert Schwentke

SCRIPT: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber


EDITOR: Thom Noble

MUSIC: David Holmes

RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 28, 2010

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020