Director: Robert Schwentke Release date: 22/10/10 Starring: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker It is unsurprising that a film based loosely on a three-issue comic book mini-series and which pays homage to old school pulp fiction should star Bruce Willis. But it is perhaps surprising that it should co-star Helen Mirren. Add to this unlikely pair the saline charms of John Malkovich, the indefinable, nay, ineffable air of Mary-Louise Parker and the sweet dulcet tones and calm disposition of the great Morgan Freeman and you’ve got yourself one hell of a stellar cast which, these days, is more than enough motivation to make a movie. In a familiar “get the gang back together after years apart” action/adventure genre trope, RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous, 2010) based on the comic book of the same name (created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, published by Homage Comics as a subdivision of Wildstorm) is a lot of fun. With as many explosions as it has jokes, RED doesn’t really amount to a whole lot more, but it knows and plays to its strengths: unafraid to be pure and simple pop entertainment. With a wry, knowing smile, audiences will be seduced by its over the top melodrama and humorously tongue-in-cheek character clichés. Constituting a group of ex-CIA agents who have long since retired from the world of covert operations, and tried endlessly to assimilate back into “regular”, “normal” societal life; Frank (Bruce Willis) who attempts to decorate his home exterior with Christmas cheer just to “fit in” with his average all-American neighbours; Joe (Morgan Freeman) who lives in a retirement home dying slowly of liver disease; Marvin (John Malkovich) who has literally gone underground to escape the omniscient “system” and Victoria (Helen Mirren) who runs a lovely ye olde English style B&B; all quite simply miss the rush of it all. But it seems this is about to change. Starting with Frank but soon followed by Joe and Marvin, the team learn that they are wanted dead – by the very people under whose employ they learnt their trade: the CIA. Re-forming for one last hurrah – oh, and an attempt to uncover a deep governmental conspiracy and assassinate the nation’s vice president, of course– they take on Agent Cooper (Karl Urban) and his team of countless CIA operatives to prove once more that they’re the very best of the best. Having been under surveillance for some time, Frank is only too aware that the lovely young woman he’s been talking to over the phone (and slowly working up the courage to meet in person) is also in danger. So, in place of a “first date” Frank kidnaps the lovely, and unwitting, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) and embarks upon the undercover thwarting of enemy vendetta with her in tow. Add to this a bunch of explosions, several shoot-outs and some witty one-liners and you have yourself some high-octane hilarity indeed. The best thing about this film is without a doubt the cast who herald the narrative with their know-how instead of relying on the plot to drive things forward. Secondary to their outstanding performances is the ludicrous excess with which each ambush and explosion is executed; there are individual “baddies” who are literally exploded like small objects as they pale in comparison to the extremely awesome ammunition used against them. And though it may sound from these highlights as if the film is piss-poor in terms of plot and story, this is actually a complete misnomer. The film never pretends, even for one second, to be anything other than a celebration of old school talent in supped-up contemporary firecracker filmic display. That is to say that whilst it would be entirely irresponsible of me not to mention that the plot is incidental and that the story is really just about as predictable as they come, it’s ultimately of little consequence when what the film achieves is giving its audience a riotous good time. With intermittent postcards appearing on-screen in a postmodern attempt to “snapshot” each location as the characters transcend boundaries of every kind with incredible ease, the film is self-reflexive to the last. Adopting a produced exterior of nostalgia for a time gone by not only in action/adventure but also in acting the film honours and even worships its A-list cast. The sentiment is sweet but not over-indulgent and the end result is absolutely RAD (Retiring Actors Deliver).