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Red

Superspy sages come out of retirement swinging in this snappy comic action flick.

© Summit Entertainment Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) joins a team of Retired and Extremely Dangerous former spooks to prove the oldsters have more bang for their buck.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis: Cop Out) is a lonely guy, quietly whiling away retirement with regular phone calls to his federal pension agent, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker: TV’s Weeds). Dimmed verve gets a jolt, though, when a hit squad comes crashing through his home in the dead of night. Suddenly he’s crisscrossing the country, fighting off a kill order and CIA hotshot William (Karl Urban: Star Trek) even while connecting with mothballed allies and assets. Together they’ll crack a few heads and break the conspiracy that would have them dead.

Thus the fun ensues.

Red isn’t about dashing action movie cliché so much as dropping Queen Elizabeth in the middle of it. This is incongruous heroes effortlessly schooling the young in the art of mayhem. There’s no Lethal Weapon “I’m getting too old for this” nonsense as unhinged Marvin (John Malkovich: Jonah Hex) flicks off a satellite; nursing home resident Joe (Morgan Freeman: Invictus) steps out as a colorful dictator; or Victoria (Helen Mirren: Oscar winner for The Queen) lays cover fire with a sniper rifle in tasteful winter camo.

Director Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler’s Wife) smirks his way through this adaptation of Warren Ellis’ much darker graphic novel, recasting the dark adventure in light as fun overindulgence. He keeps the pace quick and seamlessly weaves in a subtle undercurrent of courtship: To a degree, the whole adventure is kind of a very weird first date for Frank and Sarah. 

Story stays neat, taking on a caper bent as Frank and company scheme their way out of the fix. Generational rivalry is well played, flavoring the tale without wearing out the central gimmick. The ultimate conspiracy is a little weak, and simple plot is written as meander between scenes, but the big picture comes together.

Fun lives in the smart blend of action and humor. Frank jumps into action without missing a beat and gets into great brawls; foil William throws ample, hefty pain his way. Heroes and villains alike drag out major artillery for the gunplay, and the fisticuffs land with solid crunch. Still, none of it is taken seriously. Action is overblown to comically epic proportions at several points — especially in the airport scene, a high point of comedy and conflagration. Throughout, Schwentke gives plenty of room for the players to draw out the characters’ eccentricities, lending rich personality to the tale and adding body to the gnarly geezer shtick. Dialogue and situational humor have surprising wit, and that little vein of innocent romance is just goofy enough to work.

All said, Red’s winking hubris makes for a very fun ride. In the old-people action vein, this one takes The Expendables to the woodshed. Fans of awesomeness should be well pleased by this one.

Great action • PG-13 • 111 mins.