Based on a relatively obscure miniseries by DC Comics, RED tells the story of a group of retired CIA agents considered to be code RED, which means Retired: Extremely Dangerous. Having moved on from their exciting lives, the former spies have settled into more mundane existences until a conspiracy from their past threatens to drag them back into the world of espionage and danger.
Bruce Willis stars as the lead character, Frank Moses, and spends most of the film perfecting that half-smile stare that he seems to use for his more recent action movies. It evokes a sense of 'too cool for school' and almost belies a sense of boredom of having to star in yet another action hero role. He doesn't seem to stretch himself too much in the role and aside from a few witty one-liners, he actually seems very distant from the film - almost as if nothing happening on-screen fazes him.
His co-stars, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich seem to be more invested in the film, although with the exception of John Malkovich, none of them seem overly exerting themselves in playing their characters. Malkovich's turn as the paranoid, eccentric former-spy, Marvin, was a highlight of the film and brought an added sense of fun to the surprisingly light-hearted thriller.
I also enjoyed Karl Urban's role as the main antagonist and look forward to seeing him appear in more films in the future. The sequence with him and Bruce Willis having an extended fight scene was effectively brutal and showcased both actors very well, although i'd imagine most of the violent scenes were done by stunt-men rather than the actors themselves. The female lead, Mary-Louise Parker, was also quite enjoyable as the bewildered civilian who is dragged into the conspiracy of these aged-CIA agents and those trying to kill them. I didn't think there wasn't that much chemistry between her and Willis though, which made you wonder why she continued to follow him into dangerous circumstances again and again.
The film itself seemed to plod along with a fairly standard plot, which seemed to service merely as a device to get them to visit a myraid of American states, complete with a rather nice postcard themed animation sequence for each new location they visit. The set-pieces are more livelier than the plot, especially the Ocean's Eleven-esque sequence towards the end when the gang attempt to kidnap a high-value target from underneath the government's nose, putting their skills as secret agents to the test.
I quite liked the idea of an "aged A-Team", as it were, but I don't think there was enough charm to this movie and some of the potential of having retired CIA agents was lost. I think a far more interesting opportunity would have been to have cast older action stars against the younger generation and play on the casting a bit more, similar to how Sylvester Stallone cast his actors for The Expendables, which shares a similar theme of aged mercernaries struggling against the modern world, but it plays upon the stereotypical action movie tropes a lot more than RED does.