‘RED’ Review

Published 5 years ago by

red movie review RED Review
Screen Rant’s Vic Holtreman reviews RED

RED is awesome.

No, I don’t usually start movie reviews that way, but I’ve seen RED twice (the first time was an unfinished work print) and I liked it even more upon the second viewing. Now keep in mind that I have not read the comic book series that the film is based on (although I did read the prequel comics for the film) – and from what I’ve heard the movie is very different from the print version. I can’t predict how fans of the comic will react to the film, but on its own it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

At the very start we’re introduced to Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), and within moments, without a word spoken, we get a feel for just what kind of man Frank is: Reserved, meticulous, quiet. A man who has grudgingly adjusted to a scrupulously ordered life.

Frank’s only seeming contact with the outside world is with Sarah Ross (Mary Louise-Parker), a customer support person at the Veteran’s Administration who has been assigned as Frank’s representative. They’ve never met but have developed an interesting friendship over the phone and one can feel the potential romance simmering just beneath the surface. As I’m sure you’re aware just based on the trailers, Frank is ex-CIA, and it’s clear that his relationship with Sarah (however tenuous it may be) will soon be drawing her into his world, which is guaranteed to not continue to be scrupulously ordered.

When Frank’s house is invaded by a hit squad, we learn very quickly about the other side of his personality – his past life as a field agent – and based on what transpires, one of the best the CIA has ever had.

All this within the first 10 minutes of the film.

Along the way Frank meets a number of old compatriots including Joe (Morgan Freeman), who seems like he wouldn’t hurt a fly, Marvin (John Malkovich), a strung out, completely paranoid sort and Victoria (Helen Mirren), a lovely, attractive older woman with a killer streak lurking just beneath her genteel façade.

They come together to figure out who is killing off everyone involved in a black ops operation many years ago – and they’re all on the list. We have Karl Urban as a “good soldier” CIA agent who’s been told that Moses must be killed, but not why, the awesome Brian Cox as Ivan Simonov, an old school Russian spy with a connection to the group and a great little cameo by the great, great old actor who I won’t give away.

red movie cast RED Review

The cast of 'RED'

While the original graphic novel was written by long time veteran Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer, the screenplay was done by Jon and Eric Hoeber. Neither of these two fellows has an extensive writing resume (according to IMDB, anyway), but they’ve written a wonderful screenplay, full of little surprises, great characters, dialog, and tons of cool moments. They’re writing the screenplay for the upcoming board game-based movie Battleship, and suddenly my interest and anticipation in that film has increased considerably.

Then we have director Robert Schwentke, another guy with nothing that really stands out in his directorial resume. But here he does a fantastic job keeping the film moving forward, even when things slow down they’re not boring. The movie has a hip, kind of retro style about it and it doesn’t suffer from the awful disease of shaky-cam. I also enjoyed the soundtrack immensely, great music choices throughout.

As to the performances, how can you go wrong with a cast like this? Willis underplays it, making him simultaneously that much more menacing and likable. Malkovich is, well, Malkovich – which is to say insane in the best way possible. I always enjoy seeing Morgan Freeman on the big screen, and Brian Cox is also one of my very favorite actors – he delivers a performance that I can only describe as delicious (it sounds weird, but trust me, it fits). Karl Urban – the man is a rock, he’s so steady you could use the man as a building foundation. Oh, and can I tell you how incredibly awesome it is to watch this dignified, elegant woman named Helen Mirren tear it up with a .50 cal machine gun? There are no words….

And now I have to comment on Mary Louise-Parker’s performance…

mary louise parker red RED Review

Mary Louise-Parker in a scene from 'RED'

Because she functions as the fish-out-of-water/audience proxy, her role is critical. Everything right about her in this film is everything that was wrong with Cameron Diaz’ performance in Knight and Day: She’s likeable, funny and endearing. And because she goes from being completely freaked out to being completely “into it” over the course of the film, she could have jumped the shark on either end of that spectrum, but she nails it throughout both extremes and she’s somebody you truly care about – and will therefore understand why Frank cares about her as well.

RED was just a blast – a real fun ride – and is destined to be a movie that I’ll pick up on Blu-ray and will toss in the player three to four times a year. It’s rated PG-13 for violence, and if you read my reviews regularly you’ll know that I’m pretty sensitive to what’s appropriate for kids – I wouldn’t have a problem bringing a nine or 10 year old to this, and when it opens this Friday I’ll be bringing my 14 year old daughter to see it for sure.

Check out the RED trailer for a taste of what you’ll get in the film:

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Our Rating:

5 out of 5

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  1. Holy crap 5 stars? Really? They had an employee screening last night and i didnt go. WTF was i thinking? Dammit,oh well im seeing this very very soon it looks excellent but now that i read this review it seems like a wild ride. And im taking it! 8-)

  2. I was somewhat interested, but after reading this, I’m definitely looking forward to watching this!

  3. I’m looking forward to seeing this…DC has had a couple hiccups with their movies this year, so I’m thrilled that they seem to have broken the streak (“The Losers”…still enjoyed it, but wasn’t great///”Jonah Hex”…dear God, WHAT were they thinking?) in the live-action arena. I must admit, Vic, that I was impressed to see the five-star rating from you; it’s been awhile, hasn’t it? That’s a good sign for this film :D

  4. didnt know Brian Cox(he’s always great and will forever be THE Hannibal) was in this, an even better reason for me to see it.

    • Thanks for that reminder which also places him and Joan Allen together in Bourne. :D

  5. This goes against every other review I have read and from what several people who have seen it already told me.

    But I usually trust Vic’s reviews.

    • DSM,

      Well you HAVE been known to disagree with my reviews. 8)

      I stand by it completely, especially having seen it twice. Of course I’m much closer to the age of the characters in the film than most reviewers out there, and I loved seeing older folks kick butt. :-P


      • Actually I do usually agree with your reviews Vic, mostly because they are always honest.
        But this has wait for DVD written all over it, I’ll go see The Social Network instead.

        • DrSAM

          My bro said it was boring,he returned the tickets “social network” Is not for everyone,i liked it,but it wasnt top notch. They talk alot. I think Red will be much better :)

        • Drsam broke my heart to see you say you’ll go to the Social Network.

          I’m very disappointed in you young man lol

          • I’m a fan of Fincher.

      • same here Vic..which is why i would kill to see an aging Gibsons Max instead of it being handed off to another guy younger. age=wisdom and sometimes thats more dangerous than any gun.

    • @Vic

      I soo can’t wait till thsi comes out in BluRay so I can re-wind and re-watch the scene (from the trailer) where Willis’s character stesp out the Police car in moition… so aweome.

      Will you start a SPoliers/Discussion thread on RED?

      • BCC,

        Wasn’t planning on doing a spoiler discussion on this one.


  6. Reason I want to see this film: Helen Mirren with guns. How awesome is that?
    And this is coming from a guy who hates over-the-top, ridiculous movies filled with explosions!

  7. Thanks Vic. This review says just what I hoped this movie would be.

  8. 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, a recommendation from Vic AND it stars Bruce Willis? I’m sold.

  9. red,good action movie,worst comic book adaption ever lol doesnt even have anything to do with comic thats the only problem

    • Spider,

      Yeah, I’ve heard that a lot.


  10. Oh…my….goodness! 5 out of 5??!! Unprecedented! Just looking at the trailers made me want to see it, but now, it is a must see. Thanks Vic.

  11. You had me at Helen Mirren. You had me at HELEN MIRREN.

  12. You guys are funny. Just because it got 5/5 from a COMPLETE STRANGER does not make this a great movie.

    Not trying to be a debbie downer, but I saw it and thought it was a solid 7/10, but no more.

    • ogb,

      I’m not a complete stranger to regular readers, dude – folks have read many of my reviews and can get a sense of whether they’ll agree or not from them.


      • Ok Vic, don’t get your panties in a knot :)

        You know what I mean. People have completely different opinions, backgrounds, etc. so reviews from other people shouldn’t be the main reason they go to see a movie. But I just have a personal bias against movie critics.

        “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.” – Rattatoullie

        • ogb,

          Panties not bunched – just saying that I believe most people reacting to the review positively due to the rating are probably folks who follow my reviews. I wouldn’t expect someone who’s never been here to look at that rating and be convinced just like that.


          • Fair enough.

  13. I’d give it a 4.5 just for that one scene at the house… Other then that i loved this movie. Malkovich had me laughing hard and Mirren was just Sexy. Hopefully there is a sequel in the works…

  14. Wowzers 5 out of 5 huh! screenrant reader for years and for movie news and opinions I go nowhere else(well maybe one other place). So if you gave this a 5 I will make the point to go see this after the work weekend

  15. Damn!! 5 stars!? I am definitely going to check this out then, was just planning to see it when it came out on dvd.

  16. That’s fantastic, ’cause I really want to see this!

  17. Forget Hello


    Been looking forward to this for awhile now. Looks exciting and hilarious. Could you get a better cast for this film? I think not.

    • I agree. The cast does look fantastic :)

  18. Been looking forward to this since I saw the first preview for it. Vic giving it the rare 5 out of 5 further cements the need to see this movie. I can’t remember the last time Vic gave a 5 star review. Bruce Willis and Moran Freeman kicking butt together, how on earth can anyone miss this???


    i am even more excited now, just cant miss it


  20. Vic
    I looked at all of your reviews and I agree with most of them and the others i probably just didn’t see. I “was” worried that RED might just be something I’ve seen before and wasn’t sure to see it. since you gave it such a great rating for it. I will for sure see it.

    • UziGunner,

      Too… much… pressure…


      I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


      • Vic

        Finally saw RED, and it was awesome!
        It was funny and entertaining through out from start to finish.
        blu-Ray materiral xD

        • Uzi,

          Glad you enjoyed it. I’m taking my family and a few friends to see it tomorrow (my third time).


  21. I really enjoyed this film as well and even though there were instances where the timeline felt bunched, the movie still worked. I would have given it a 4/5 but I think seeing people close to his age helped Vic give it that extra star *zing* :)

    Thinking back, they didn’t ask a lot of the older actors because Willis is the only one that does any actual fighting. And that scene where he steps out of the sliding car is my favorite all year I think – just so damn cool to watch.

  22. movie was average at best,on par with the losers,. 21/2 out of 5. lol

    • This was FAR better than The Losers. And I took your massive spoiler out of your comment.


    • The Losers was mediocre at best. It felt like everyone was trying too hard to be a team. In Red, they characters don’t feel like they are trying to be a team at all – they just ARE a team. This is by far the best unknown DC comic movie to date.

  23. Well it’s always a pleasure to see a glamorous looking Mirren and all I got to do is look at Malkovich and laugh,but with that cast I was expecting a witty comedy action thriller.To me the writing was just par.

  24. A 5 out of 5 should be reserved for truly great films like the recent Inception or Shutter Island. As for this movie, I’m not sure. I doubt it deserves a 5 out of 5 but I guess I’ll find out whenever I watch it on Netflix.

    • George,

      This is my personal scale, not some carved in stone thing where “Plan 9 from Outer Space” is 0 and “Citizen Kane” is 5. :)

      I sat through this film twice, enjoyed the heck out of it and really if pressed couldn’t find one thing to tell you that I *didn’t* like about it – so in my book that’s a 5.

      I’m sure some will disagree (and already have).


      • Plan nine from outer space a 0?? Surely not Vic!! :)

        • Jordamo,

          I love Plan 9, but you get what I was saying. :)


        • It gets 2 stars for being so bad it’s good. :-)

      • hi
        i plan to see this film soon and i need to know how much swearing is in it. i went to see the other guys and i went with someone who is like a nun. so embarressed when it sweared the entire way though. i enjoyed it though. so funny.

        • alex,

          I really don’t recall any swearing in it.


        • Actually they said G*d D*mn 3 times and F*ck once. Other than that it was relatively clean.

          • Did they? Geez, I usually pay attention to that but I missed those.


            • yeah, at the end he(you know who I’m talking about) was like: ” you *undisclosed name that if mentioned will give things away* :) its rated pg13 and I’m PRETTY sure that if they do more than one f word than it’s more likely to be rated r.

          • Paul
            You stilled blurred out God Damn. Lol

    • Hey, Inception is a good movie and deffinatly deserves a five star rating. But Shutter Island has to be the worst movie I have ever seen. Ya, Red is not as good as Inception, but it is deffinatly better than Shutter Island.

  25. I know that every time I see a 5star, it’s gonna be Vic doin the favors :-D

  26. I thought this was an awesome film; very funny with some cool action. I would give it 4/5, even though I’m probably the same age as Vic. I thought Ernest Borgnine had passed on but I guess not. It was good seeing him in film again. Sly Stallone needs to confer with the director of this flick for Expendables 2.

  27. Vic is so much younger than his pic dictates….this was a solid 5. I cannot tell you how many 40′s and 50′s there were in the theatre. Several comments we heard were ” finally a film that WE can enjoy”. I spoke to the couple next to us and they said they only go see a film 3 or 4 times a year, just because of the subject matter and the age of the cast. “There is not much that appeals to us.” Which I feel will translate in the BO gross, and give RED some legs.

  28. OK, you have me psyched to see this now, Vic.

  29. I respectfully disagree. I found RED to be boring, save for John Malkovich being his awesome self. The action scenes weren’t really that interesting, and it felt like everyone was on autopilot the whole time. I don’t know, I just wasn’t engaged. I can respect the 5/5 though, opinions are opinions.

    • Jonathan,

      Thanks, I respect your opinion as well.

      Just curious, where are you on the age scale? I’m up closer to the cast’s age. :)


      • @Vic

        In an age where a film like JackA$$ 3D is able to due twice the ticket sales of a far superior film like RED and where most of the twenty somethings and under are bombarded with “FEAR NOTHING” messages and laugh at images of cannibalism its no wonder they would find something RED to be slow. Its a sad state of affairs. I’m not anti JA, I’ve laughed at parts 1 & 2 but I never in my life would have thought any film of that genre, the “do stupid crap and stuff” would best something like RED.

        Do you think last years disappointing SURROGATES may have hurt RED some by setting up expectations that a BRUCE WILLIS graphic Novel based film released in the FALL would not be as entertaining as advertised? I enjoyed SURROGATES but it certainly was a let down where as RED as the complete opposite. I just don’t get how RED could be doing soo much less then JackA$$.