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Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults Teens
Action Suspense Thriller Comedy Adaptation
1 hr. 51 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 15, 2010 (wide—3,000+ theaters)
DVD: January 25, 2011
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Summit Entertainment

Spies in the Bible

About murder in the Bible

VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Featuring: Bruce Willis (Frank Moses), Mary-Louise Parker Parker (Sarah Ross), Karl Urban (William Cooper), Morgan Freeman (Joe Matheson), Helen Mirren (Victoria), John Malkovich (Marvin Boggs), Brian Cox (Ivan Simanov), Richard Dreyfuss (Alexander Dunning), Ernest Borgnine (Henry, The Records Keeper), Julian McMahon (Robert Stanton), more »
Director: Robert Schwentke—“The Time Traveler’s Wife
Producer: Summit Entertainment, Di Bonaventura Pictures, DC Entertainment, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, more »
Distributor: Summit Entertainment

“Still armed. Still dangerous. Still got it.”

Sequel to this movie: RED 2 (2013)

If you are a Bruce Willis fan, like I am, you will be in movie bliss watching “RED.” He is definitely in his element, playing an ex-CIA operative who knows how to out-think, out-shoot, and out-wit virtually any enemy. Add to that an inspired cast full of top notch actors and cameos that is almost as much fun as the script itself, and you are guaranteed an adventure comedy shoot-em-up to be enjoyed.

“RED” which stands for “Retired Extremely Dangerous” in fictitious CIA code, is an adventure/romantic comedy loosely based on the three-issue graphic novel mini-series from illustrator Cully Hamner and writer Warren Ellis published in 2003 and 2004.

Far lighter than the comic on which it is based, the movie is a fun bit of popcorn entertainment, with a much fuller plot and character base than the original novel.

Of course, there are two ways to consider this movie experience. First, from the side of a Christian with a family to think about as you go into the theater, know that this is an action piece with heavy CIA, FBI, and espionage peril. There is lots, and I mean LOTS, of gun fire and near comic book violence in “RED.” It is all trumped up for visual show (one scene where the bullet casings are as deep as an embankment covered with snow) and is not at all realistic, but still it is unrelenting at times, and chaotic to say the least. Second, the other side of the coin is, it’s a lot of fun to watch. If you are an adult who enjoys movies the likes of “Oceans Eleven” and “Space Cowboys,” you are in for a treat.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a retired, deep cover CIA agent who is just doing the ghost-like walk of his retirement. Bored and, at some times, numb to his life, he engages in phone conversations with his pension services representative, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who is his only source of sunshine. On the eve of traveling to Kansas City to meet her in person, Frank discovers he is the target of a government “hit.”

After narrowly escaping with his life, he kidnaps the unsuspecting Sarah, to save her life, of course, and gathers together his old gang of assassins and spies to track down those who are seeking not just his life, but the lives of every agent assigned to a covert operation from an assignment in Guatemala back in 1981. Starting with the reporter who unearthed the operation, every person she spoke to on the list has either turned up dead or is up next.

In a chase that spans the globe from Chesapeake Bay to Pensacola, Florida, New York to Moldova, Russia, Frank and his just-as-dangerous also retired pards, Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich), Ivan (Brian Cox), and Victoria (Helen Mirren), stay just ahead of relentless CIA agent William Cooper (Karl Urban) to unravel the mystery as to why they are being targeted for the kill.

They soon find that the lethal string-puller is a sniveling industrialist (Richard Dreyfuss) using the CIA as “his own personal hit squad.” He, also, happens to have the Vice-President in his back pocket, okaying every hit.

Romance is the underlying theme, as Frank and Sarah begin to fall in love throughout this hair raising romp and the crew of fellow retired agents give their sage advice on courtship.

The rating of PG-13, for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language, is borderline. I feel it should be bumped up to R, even though there are no sex scenes in this film, the comic violence is not for small children or “tweens,” no matter the PG-13 rating. I must say I was surprised that the show of blood was minimal, accept for a scene where Cooper and Moses really fight it out hard and one where Victoria is accidentally shot and the blood is shown seeping through her white dress.

There are, also, instances of a hanged man, a character getting blown up, and another where a character is flamed to death with a fire cannon. There are numerous references to people being on drugs, punched, killed, tortured or shot. Although most deaths are not actually displayed on screen, there is no doubt that people are being killed in battle. Nevertheless, the references there, even though meant to be comic, may still be traumatic for kids under the age of 16.

Brief strong language is just that, brief. I was also surprised that in an action film geared to violence, no matter how comic it may be portrayed, the foul language was kept relatively low. 2 sh*t, one utterance of bastards, hell (8), d*mn (5), “my a**,” 2 utterances of “Christ,” “G*d d*mn (2), “Oh my G*d” (2), and one “f-u” thrown in for good measure, I suppose. There were way more tongue-in-cheek references to sex and the way characters of this genre speak such as mentions of nipples, hard-ons, balls, nuts, and potty trainer.

There are positive elements, if you look past the comedy and allow them to take hold, of the beauty of lasting friendships. No matter how long those friends had not seen one another, they still are willing to help one another out. Do not overlook the Christ-like fact that one character gave his life to save the rest. That love does not have to start with a physical relationship. The fact that Frank and Sarah got to know one another just by spending time talking over the phone for months, was a way to relate that knowing someone’s heart first is the best way to begin a relationship.

So be warned of this film’s limit-pushing PG-13 violence, that turns uncomfortably dark in several places and relies on bullet-spraying overkill to get from point a to point b. That said, I felt that “RED” is a smart, fast-moving, adult comedy with a great musical score, stellar cast and script. Bruce Willis brings his uber-relaxed authority back to the screen for yet another terrific performance. If you are a Christian who enjoys this genre of film and can get past some of the violence, you will have a great time experiencing “RED.”

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sexual talk: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I went expecting an action movie, but it was really more of a comedy. I laughed so hard I cried. While giving the caveat that there was a lot of violence and a little bad language, and that violence played for laughs is probably not a good thing to watch, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It had more plot and character building than is typical for action films.

Also, it was cleaner than typical (for today’s movies) when it came to romantic relationships and the portrayal of women’s bodies. I especially liked that they gave a middle aged woman a role that portrayed her as active, attractive, and relevant. This film was very entertaining.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Laura S., age 41 (USA)
Positive—This movie worked for me because of the terrific acting by some of our best actors, who played their characters to the hilt. The script was witty enough. However, there is no way one should deem the moral aspect of this movie as better than offensive. Extreme violence is always offensive, and there were times when killing was discussed as if it were fodder for entertainment. The movie stands out because of its stellar cast; otherwise it would fall into the morass of forgettable movies.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Halyna Barannik, age 64 (USA)
Positive—This movie is great fun and very entertaining! The violence was no worse than cable TV. Except for one fight scene, it was more implied than actually shown. The acting and the script were superb. We laughed and cheered the characters. A great adult date night movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—C. Nelson, age 50 (USA)
Positive—…it’s much better than Willis' last film “Surrogates” that I saw. Don’t get me wrong. “Surrogates” was and still is a powerful social commentary. A scary one at that; it addresses the ever-growing concern of man vs. machine and which one is being rendered obsolete in this 21st century. Its big drawback though was the middle act; it got incredibly sluggish, so much so it lost a lot of momentum. Shame too 'cause the rest of the film is spot-on.

But “RED” is witty, full of a few good action sequences, and even a few leering remarks on the genre itself that almost make it a direct parody of its source material: comic books and probably action films in general. This is the film “Expendables” should have been. Both films try to craft a story around a bunch of older dudes who still got it. “The Expendables” is over-the-top in a lot of its sequences, and the dialogue and story are purposely bad in an effort to mimic the genre. But it does it with deadpan delivery, so you either perceive its intentional “bad” quality for what it is or you don’t, in which case you think the film just plain blows chunks.

“RED”, however, is actually funny and, of course, action-oriented, as well (as far as old dudes go anyhow… I mean this is no “Casino Royale”). It allows itself the creative liberty to poke fun of the idea of a bunch of retirees taking up arms again. Little things like Willis' character conveniently knowing Chinese or that ol' British gal firing a sniper rifle or a SMG. I won’t spoil all the easter eggs fer ya, but they’re there. In the words of El Guapo, there’s a “plethora” of them. Watch “Red”, and you’ll see.

John Malkovich is the film’s ace. Honestly, I can’t think of any Malkovich film I’ve seen that I didn’t like. He’s a talented actor and an even funnier one, when need be. I think George Clooney and all his eccentricities don’t hold a candle to Malkovich’s prowess. Put this guy in front of the camera and watch him go. Man, I want some pancakes.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Mega Tron, age 24 (USA)
Positive—This had to be one of the funnest action movies I have ever seen! The main characters were very likeable and well-acted. Families may be daunted by a bloody fist-fight, a quick look at a bag full of dismembered fingers, and an f-word… but I’d say most teenagers wouldn’t be very bothered by it. I wasn’t. I’m definitely adding this one to my DVD collection.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Kadie Joseph, age 18 (USA)
Positive—This was a really good movie, great action, a love story, and it was pretty funny. There was a lot of killing, but they didn’t show much, and it was a good guy defending himself against people that were trying to kill him. It was way better then I expected. And the woman actress that is 65 looks amazing—Helen. That is inspiring!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Samantha, age 36 (USA)


Comments from young people
Negative—Sex references in the nth degree. A lot of profanity. Why does anyone watch this movie?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
—Brandon, age 17 (USA)
Positive—I loved this movie! it is a great movie fore teens to go see. Me and a friend went to go see this, and the only thing in this movie that offended us was the one strongly used F-word. What also pleased us about this film is the fact that there is no sexual scenes in it. I recommend this action film to all teens. Even the action in this film is mostly gore free.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—John, age 13 (USA)
Positive—I watched this the other day and I was very happy with it. There wasn’t too much violence and blood, and it was a very interesting plot. If you are a Bruce Willis fan, he will not disappoint you in this. There are some things in the film that didn’t add up and some things were kinda dumb, but all together I thought it was a cute interesting film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Sara, age 17 (USA)