By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Despite what its title might suggest, the witty spy caper "RED" (Summit), though packed with mayhem, is mostly free of gore. Still, a succession of gunfights and explosions punctuate director Robert Schwentke’s amusingly executed adaptation of Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner’s graphic novel, restricting the appropriate audience for this romp.
As a matter of fact, the film’s moniker doesn’t refer to the color of blood at all, but to the phrase "retired and extremely dangerous." That’s an apt description of ex-CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) whose tranquil transition from black-ops expert to pensioner is rudely interrupted by the arrival in his home of a band of masked assassins.
Frank outguns his attackers and takes to the road, following through on a planned first meeting with Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), the much younger Social Security bureaucrat with whom he has been carrying on a long-distance flirtation. Fearing for her life as well as his own, Frank forces Sarah to join him on the lam.
As the pair struggle to evade the attentions of William Cooper (Karl Urban), the latest hit man tasked with eliminating them, they gradually unravel the conspiracy — concocted by a shadowy cabal of high-level government and business figures — that has led to their being targeted.
They’re aided by a trio of Frank’s former associates: reliable intelligence veteran Joe (Morgan Freeman), entertainingly flaky spook-turned- survivalist Marvin (John Malkovich) and unlikely killing machine Victoria (Helen Mirren), whose prim manner belies her abilities with high powered arms.
The talented ensemble — which also includes Richard Dreyfuss and Ernest Borgnine in smaller roles — is clearly having a ball. And the updated Tracy-Hepburn relationship between Frank and Sarah is not only marked by some fine exchanges of mutual wit, but by a refreshing degree of physical restraint.
The intense clashes with which the humorous elements are interspersed, however — some involving dislocated limbs and severed fingers — place "RED" beyond the pale for all but mature viewers with a high tolerance for tumult.
The film contains frequent, largely bloodless violence, brief gruesome imagery, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one use of the F-word and some crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.