Movie review: All-star cast powerful in action tale of retired spies
Maybe they’re rusty relics of the 007 days, when the espionage game seemed to be played with a sly wink by operatives on both sides of the Iron Curtain. But the retired secret agents
of the revved-up “Red” prove that there is still loads of firepower and dark humor in their over-the-hill spy craft.
Adapted and expanded from a dark, violent, 66-page DC Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis, “Red” comes to the screen with an all-star cast and a tongue-in-cheek attitude that makes its explosive mayhem and ever-mounting body count seem like an entertaining lark.
The story follows a template set by “Charade,” the classic 1963 Audrey Hepburn-Cary Grant romp, expanded on by “Romancing the Stone,” the 1984 Michael Douglas-Kathleen Turner gambol, and played out by rote with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in last summer’s “Knight and Day.” As per formula, a naive damsel is thrown together with a cool man of the world, whose motives are vaguely sinister, and sets off on a hair-raising, bullet-riddled, chase-filled duel with shadowy villains.
“Red” opens with a vision of the mundane suburban retirement of Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a former CIA spook, who battles his boredom by striking up a long-distance telephone flirtation with Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), a chatty help-desk operator at a government retirement bureau.
But the tedium of Frank’s retired life is shattered one night when a so-called “wet team” of shadowy, black-masked assassins shows up and shoots his ticky-tacky tract house into a pile of smoldering splinters. Frank falls back on his old spook ways, disappearing underground and showing up across country at Sarah’s house, convinced that whoever is trying to kill him will inevitably go after her.
Soon, Frank and the reluctant, disbelieving Sarah are on the lam and dodging the dogged efforts of hotheaded CIA assassin William Cooper (Karl Urban) to eliminate them, with extreme prejudice.
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