'Red' Review: Great Actors Create Good, Solid, Dumb Fun

“Ocean’s Eleven” has met its match and it arrives in theaters featuring a machine-gun wielding Helen Mirren. Many viewers enjoyed the 2001 remake of "Ocean's Eleven" with its well-known cast and entertaining premise. The remake wasn’t trying to be much more than a good time at the multiplex and it largely succeeded in reaching that goal. "Red,” which features a higher caliber cast than “Eleven,” replicates the “Ocean’s Eleven” formula and does so in a commendable fashion.


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While “Ocean’s Eleven” featured more exciting actors like Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and George Clooney, “Red” has a stronger and more well-respected cast. It features iconic actors like Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren. Both "Ocean's" and "Red" were far-fetched and over the top, but each movie overcame its shortcomings with its cast.

“Red” opens on Frank (Bruce Willis), a retired and lonely man who receives his pension check in the mail. He's trying to maintain a relationship with an employee at the pension office named Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). Once he receives his check, he immediately destroys it and then calls her to say that it never arrived. Frank eventually wants to meet Sarah but she's nervous about such an encounter. However, meeting her becomes a necessity when a team of assassins targets Frank for elimination. When their plan fails, Frank is forced to kidnap Sarah to protect her from any danger she may be in. (Frank has spent so much time on the phone with Sarah that he fears she might used as a way to get to him.)

The film’s title refers to a group of former C.I.A. officers (including Frank)who are known by the initials R.E.D: Retired, Extremely Dangerous. On the run from assassins, Frank and Sarah are forced to reunite with some of his R.E.D. colleagues to figure out whoever's trying to kill them. Frank’s colleagues include Joe (Morgan Freeman), who spends his days checking out women in a retirement home, and Victoria (Helen Mirren), who lives a quiet life when she isn't taking contract jobs on the side. Another former co-worker is Marvin (John Malkovich), who joins the crew as well but his psychological issues (caused by taking LSD for eleven years) sometimes interfere with his ability to get the job done.

The actors in “Red” seem to be having a great time. Malkovich, for one, gives a delightfully insane performance that steals the show but the other actors do just fine. There's also the novelty factor in seeing high-caliber performers like Helen Mirren violently killing people and smiling courteously about it -- but sometimes a novelty wears out too quickly. Some of the violent sequences showcasing Victoria's abilities go on for too long.

Like “Ocean’s Eleven,” the plot isn’t as great as it could be considering the actors involved. Everything ultimately leads to a bizarre conspiracy that involves a defense contractor trying to manipulate the political system. However, “Red” isn’t about logic or a strong plot. It’s about a strong group of actors coming together and having fun in a light fluffy action-comedy.

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