Monday, October 18, 2010


Ratings - MPAA (PG-13 ), USCCB (A-III), Roger Ebert (2 stars), Fr. Dennis (3 stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB Review -
Roger Ebert's Review -

RED (“Retired and Extremely Dangerous”) is a spy caper with an ensemble cast of both younger and older actors (Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfus, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Marrin, Karl Urban, et al) which asks the question: can one (even a spy) ever really retire?

Frank Moses (played by Bruce Willis) gives it a shot. We find him at the beginning of the movie at his nice suburban home looking down his nice snow covered suburban street sometime before Christmas and realizing that he forgot to put up his Frosty the Snowman decoration that makes him fit in with his quiet new neighbors. Such appears to be the quiet life of a retired CIA assassin.

Frank finds himself so bored that he’s taken to ripping-up his monthly U.S. government pension check just to give him an excuse to talk to a cute sounding customer service rep, Sarah Ross (played by Mary-Louise Parker), at the U.S. Government Pension Headquarters in Kansas City, to complain about his check “getting lost again” to ask her to have the Pension Office send him another. While Sarah enters the request into her government issue computer, he makes conversation...

As we watch this scene play out, it becomes pretty clear that this has become a routine, that they’ve gotten to know each other, and that Sarah, 20-something, with headset on, sitting in front of her government issue computer in her government cubicle with a romance novel at her side, which she apparently reads during breaks, doesn’t particularly mind flirting with a retiree who she doesn’t expect to ever meet. In fact, when Frank broaches the matter of meeting (saying that it turns out that he’ll be traveling through Kansas City later in the month), Sarah initially shoots him down, saying that it would probably be a really bad idea. With some convincing, and apparently nothing else except for romance novels going on in her life, she ends their conversation with a still largely hypothetical and very tentative “yes” which could be “easily” retracted back to a “no.” In a sense, she continues to “play nice.” Afterall, what are the odds that he’ll really come out Kansas City anyway?

Well things happen. A group of assassins come to Frank’s house and with high powered rapid machinegun fire quickly reduce his quiet suburban house with a Frosty the Snowman on the front porch into heaping ruin. Frank, former CIA assassin that he is, escapes, and gets it into his head that he “must save" Sarah now from “certain danger” (afterall, those who wanted to kill him would “know” that she’s pretty much the only one that he ever talks to anymore). So he does come out to Kansas City to “rescue her,” and the rest of the story begins.

The adventures that follow carry Frank and (at least initially) abductee Sarah (who presumably due to Stockholm syndrome, her fondness of romance novels, and let’s face it, not much else was going on in her government cubicle life, comes to like the adventure of it all) to revisit all kinds of friends and colleagues from Frank’s past life, from the CIA (Freedman and Malkovich) to the former KGB (Cox) to MI-6 (Marrin).

Together, the older spies reminisce of a “simpler time” when despite the occupational hazards of sudden violent death (and society living under the constant threat of worldwide nuclear annihilation) at least it was clear who your friends were and who were your enemies (and it was even possible for enemies to become friends) as opposed to today in the post 9/11 world when the reverse could be true and those who thought they were “friends” could discover themselves (through any number of betrayals or treacheries) to be enemies.

And the movie also becomes a battle of generations between the “Old Spies” and the “New,” with the “Old” being able ("of course") to teach the young whippersnappers a trick or two ;-).

All in all, I found this to be a _fun movie_ with some _great comedic performances_ (by Willis, Parker, Cox, Malcovich among others) with a good deal of shooting and glass breaking but few people actually dying.

For those of us who grew up during the Cold War, the movie _may_ actually serve as an entré to explaining to the youngsters what it was like to live then and the many ways that the world has changed since.

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