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Red is ridiculous, campy fun with lots of action
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It's fashionable these days to say that 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 40, and so on. In "Red," however, 50 is still 50, 60 is still 60, and that's the whole point.

The scenario drops a group of senior citizens into cloak and dagger spy games, and it's somehow refreshing to watch older actors getting to, gasp, act their age.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a retired CIA operative who is bored to death. He once specialized in assassinations and flipping enemy agents and was the baddest dude on the U.S. intelligence payroll.

But now his biggest challenge is getting an avocado to root.

Frank has developed a phone crush on Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), an IRS cubical dweller whose life is just as dull as Frank's. After 18 months of flirting long distance, Frank and Sarah agree to meet in person if he's ever in Kansas City, where she lives.

Meanwhile, a squad of commando hit men attack Frank in his house. He has no idea why this happens, but it's clear that Frank and anybody close to him are now on someone's hit list.

So Frank and Sarah go on the run, against her will at first, and seek the help of Frank's old CIA friends.

Frank's best friend Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman), currently whiling away his days in a nursing home and fighting liver cancer, is the first to come on board.

Then Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), paranoid and delusional from being subjected to years of LSD experimentation, contributes his hilarious brand of crazy.

And rounding out the team is Victoria (Helen Mirren), who is an ironic blend of kind-hearted housewife and deadly assassin. It's a bit like Julia Child wielding an Uzi.

They even get help from an aging Russian spy named Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox), a cagey yet romantic spy who enjoys the game more than anyone.

They are chased by young, ambitious CIA agent William Cooper (Karl Urban). Frank and his makeshift crew must discover who is targeting them before Cooper and his men hunt them down.

For the most part, the trailers make it very clear what to expect. However, the one thing that gets lost in the promotion is that this is a DC Comics property. "Red" is based on a graphic novel, so expect over-the-top explosions and some intentionally campy dialogue.

The movie is at its best when the cast work together, playing off of each other rather than acting individually.

Willis and Parker make a surprisingly cute, believable couple. It takes a while to develop, but by the midway point we're grinning right along each time their eyes meet.

It's an absolute joy to watch Mirren pumping off thousands of rounds from a submachine gun, while her silver-blonde mane and dignified manner shimmer with her trademark elegance.

But the most fun probably comes from seeing Malkovich fully embrace his insanity. His performances often border on absurd, and this time around he just goes for it. He alternates between world class killer and world class crackpot, all with a childlike enthusiasm.

It's also great fun to see Urban in another comedic role. He has officially broken out of the intense, heavy typecast, thanks to this movie and his role as Bones in last year's "Star Trek."

The movie fits into the trend (see "The Incredibles," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," and all their imitators) of combining deadly espionage games with mundane domesticity. Meaning, it's another movie that tosses unexpected character types into plots more suited to James Bond or Jason Bourne.

In that respect, it's not a very surprising movie. But it is the kind of movie that delivers on its promise. If this premise and this cast intrigue you, you can be fairly certain you're going to like it.

Bottomline: Ridiculous in the best way

 

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