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Review byMatthew Turner21/10/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 111 mins

RED has some inventive action sequences, a witty script and superb performances from a great cast, but it loses its way badly in the second half thanks to some sluggish pacing and an increasingly tedious plot.

What's it all about?
Directed by Robert Schwentke, RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous, acronym fans) is based on a DC Comics graphic novel and stars Bruce Willis as retired black ops CIA agent Frank Moses, who's suddenly attacked by a hi-tech hit squad. Realising that the woman he cares about (Mary-Louise Parker as Sarah) is also in danger, Frank kidnaps her and tries to keep her safe, even though all their prior contact has been over the phone and they've never actually met.

When Frank enlists the help of his ex-colleague Joe (Morgan Freeman) he discovers that his former employers are behind his attempted assassination, so he reassembles his old team – including paranoid nutjob Marvin (John Malkovich) and deadly sniper Victoria (Helen Mirren) – and they attempt to discover why they've all been targeted. At the same time, they have to stay one step ahead of ruthless CIA agent Cooper (Karl Urban), who's been tasked with their elimination.

The Good
Willis is pretty much on autopilot throughout but the supporting performances are excellent, particularly Parker, who's both adorable and hilarious, getting consistently huge laughs in unexpected ways, such as her angry rant through a duct tape gag. Malkovich is equally good in a role (clearly based on The A-Team's Murdoch) that constantly threatens to go over the top but somehow stays likeable, funny and unpredictable.

The script crackles with good dialogue (“I was hoping you'd have HAIR!”) and off-the-wall moments (e.g. Sarah discovering that Frank speaks Chinese) and there are several nice touches, including unexpectedly macabre moments like an envelope full of fingers and Marvin's house, which is accessible only via the disguised bonnet of a car. In addition, there are some nicely timed shocks and Schwentke orchestrates some stylish and inventive action sequences, the highlight of which is a terrific shoot-out at the docks.

The Bad
The problem is that the film runs out of both wit and ideas at about the halfway mark and never recovers, becoming bogged down in an increasingly tedious plot and introducing new characters that it doesn't really need.

Worth seeing?
RED is very much a film of two halves, but it's ultimately worth seeing for Parker's delightful performance and an entertaining first hour.

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Content updated: 26/01/2020 00:35

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