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RED movie 5522

Still armed. Still dangerous. Still got it.


Red is an American action-comedy film loosely based on the three-issue comic book limited series of the same name created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, and published by the DC Comics imprint Homage. The film stars Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Mary Louise Parker, Karl Urban, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Helen Mirren, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfuss with Robert Schwentke directing a screenplay by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber.

Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a retired CIA agent trying to make the best of his simple life. For the past few months, he had been developing a tentative relationship with Sara Ross (Mary Louise Parker), who was one of the agents helping him with pension checks. He had been planning on going to Kansas City to see her when the next night, a CIA team bursts into his house and tries to have him killed. Frank quickly notes that they must have had him under surveillance, and thus would know about Sara, so he's forced to kidnap her while he seeks out another retired member of the CIA, Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman). Meanwhile, CIA Agent William Cooper (Karl Urban) has been ordered to take out Frank no questions asked, only to find that he's not so easily killed and that the entire ordeal doesn't seem to add up. Frank gathers up his old CIA crew to find answers and get to bottom of their new R.E.D (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) titles.

A sequel is planned and Helen Mirren is quite excited about it.


This film contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Marvin comments to Victoria that he remembers the Secret Service being tougher. John Malkovich, who played Marvin, also played the would-be presidential assassin Mitch Leary in the movie In the Line of Fire.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Aside from the transition to comedy, as noted above, the movie also does a great deal of expanding on the reasoning behind the order to kill Moses, creating a rather elaborate conspiracy involving the Vice President whereas in the original comic it is just the new director of the CIA finding out about Moses' record and saying "Holy Shit! We can't let this guy live as long as he knows this stuff!"
    • Signed off on by Warren Ellis himself, since the comic is so short that he said it could maybe be a forty-minute film... if it had a musical number.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Almost averted at the beginning of the film, but it's eventually played straight.
    • More Badass than bad; Moses is calm, polite and soft-spoken throughout the film.
  • All-Star Cast: One of the best and most impressive of the year, only surpassed by that of The Expendables and Inception.
  • Anti-Villain: Cooper is just doing his job and has no idea what's happening.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "I was hoping to not get kidnapped. Or drugged. I was hoping you had hair."
  • A-Team Firing: Whenever the protagonists face policemen or Secret Service agents. Reaches ludicrous heights with the scene in Moldova, where an entire platoon of soldiers, in a double file horizontal firing line, can't even nick Moses or Boggs.
  • Author Appeal: You can see Warren Ellis' fingerprints all over the script in the form of Marvin Boggs - an utterly lethal and brilliant yet batshit insane drug-addled conspiracy freak who is right about EVERY SINGLE ONE of his paranoid freakouts. All that's missing is some cool tattoos and some nanotech implants and you'd have every single one of Ellis' "heroes" crammed into John Malkovich. Who is the most memorable part of all the awesome things around him.
  • Badass: Everyone. Absolutely everyone.
    • Cooper gets bonus points for surviving a fight with Frank Moses, then ordering the entire CIA building to search for Frank and actively looking for Frank himself, all with a dislocated arm, spitting blood, and possibly some broken ribs.
    • Hell, even the librarian is played by Ernest Borgnine.
  • Badass Crew: The Guatemala team, in spades. Exception of the CO and later Vice President.
  • Badass Grandpa: The entire team, but especially Joe, who's far older than the rest of them. Even more impressive is that Joe can still hold his own, despite suffering from Stage 4 Liver Cancer
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Moses is dressed as a general, Sarah is posing as his aide. He needs to use a fake contact lens to get past a retinal scanner, but drops it. Sarah is on her hands and knees looking for it when the doors open to reveal a group of soldiers.

 Sarah: The general has dropped his contact lens. Perhaps you could help us?

 Boggs: She called me old man! Can I kill her now?!

Frank: Yeah! Go ahead!

 Victoria: This is going to be fun!

  • Bond One-Liner: "Old man, my ass!"
  • Bound and Gagged: Sarah in the car and hotel room. Almost taken to a ridiculous extreme when Frank wants to duct tape the grieving mother of a victim, until Sarah intervenes.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Every single gun in the movie fired more ammunition than it is actually capable of holding.
    • Averted in the case of Victoria's .50 Browning, which is belt-fed and not limited in this fashion, although admittedly we do not see the belt clearly when the agents catch up to it and find it rigged to fire unattended and overheating from sustained fire might be a problem. We also see Frank change magazines when he jumps out of the police car, continuously firing at Cooper. IMFDB notes that the 8-round weapond still manages to fire 16 rounds after that reload.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Victoria calls Frank out for being one.

  Victoria: You're all hard on the outside, but all gooey on the inside. Gooey.

  • Cassandra Truth: Boggs. He is almost always right when he assumes someone or something is a threat. Of course, no one believes him until it's too late.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Minus the FBI part, and the CIA doesn't know that they're being used. Well, not the lower tiers of the CIA.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Marvin Boggs. Justified:

 Sara: Wow. This guy's insane.

Frank: Well, he thought he was the subject of a secret government mind control project. As it turns out, he really was being given daily doses of LSD for 11 years.

Sara: Well, in that case, he looks great.

Frank: Fantastic.

  • Combat Pragmatist: Both Moses and Cooper use anything they can find to beat the other senseless when they fight. Coffee mug, telephone, shelves, glass table, filing cabinet, you name it. Helps that Moses trained the guy that trained Cooper.
  • Combat Stilettos: Subverted with Victoria. The final showdown has her slipping off her dress pumps and putting on a pair of combat boots instead.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: The Secret Service's cars. Justified, seeing as how they are the Secret Service's cars and are armored in real life - and subverted, as a M3 Browning works just fine when the crew wants to rip them apart.
    • Averted for the assault in the beginning of the film, however, where the rounds fired are clearly shown to tear the house to pieces as though it were wet cardboard. If Frank had been upstairs, he would have been killed no matter what room he was in.
      • In that sequence, the cinematography seemed to imply that Frank was in his basement (the room with the punching bag), and thus protected by being below ground level.
    • Also averted for those metal containers at the airport, although no one was shot through them.
  • Can You Hear Me Now: Cooper apparently has some kind of super cellphone which can get reception in a steel-plated, deep underground CIA vault. It is the CIA, after all.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Marvin. Justified - he was subject to a number of mind-altering experiments when he was in the CIA.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: subverted when Ivan saves Victoria. Who then carries her off in a Bridal Carry.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Moses vs. the Faceless Goons at the beginning.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Played with Cooper, who is savvy enough to understand that the fire is only a ruse and orders all supposed injured checked at the exit but is still duped when Frank knocks out the firefighter, takes his clothes, and carries him outside.
  • Dirty Old Man: Joe is a mild version. He pretends the TV is broken, or possibly sabotages it, so he can look at the butt of the nurse who tries to fix it. She catches him, but is only amused by it.
  • The Dragon: Cynthia Wilkes.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Moses' preferred method of subduing people; this is Lampshaded (see Bound and Gagged).
  • Establishing Character Moment: Oddly subverted. The first thing we really see Cooper do is hang a man. Only later do we learn he actually isn't a Complete Monster, though it is hinted at; while he's planting evidence to make the murder look like a suicide, he is on the phone talking to his wife about his children.
    • Played straight with Moses and Sara: Moses wakes up at six in the morning and goes through a cardio workout routine even though he's retired, Sara works in a cubicle wallpapered in postcards of places she would like to visit, and reads trashy romance novels while at work. And then there's Boggs and his ghille suit in his own front yard.
  • Everybody Calls Him Barkeep: The Records Keeper.
  • The Film of the Book: See Red.
  • Fingore: Frank shows Joe an envelope containing the severed forefingers of the hit team sent to his house.
  • Five-Man Band
  • Foe Yay: Frank and Cooper. Slightly disturbingly, though arguably less foe-ish, Cooper and the elderly archivist.

 Frank: Six one, cute hair?

Archivist: Hair was cute!

    • They could quite easily just be mocking the younger agent, who clearly spends a bit of time in front of the mirror every morning styling his hair.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: While Red is rated PG-13 and its violence is not overly brutal or gory, during the airport sequence, two of the couple of people Frank and company face are blown apart on screen. While one is better seen than the other, you can see limbs flying.
  • Girl with Psycho Weapon: Victoria and her wonderful arsenal of automatic weapons.
    • The woman who Boggs threatens at gunpoint and her wonderful RPG.
  • Government Conspiracy - Turns out, not really. The Vice President's apparent cover up for his election is just a cover up for an Arms Dealer.
  • Grandma, What Massive Hotness You Have!: Victoria Brown, naturally.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: Boggs does a variant of this, sending back a grenade with the butt of a grenade launcher. Batter up!
  • Guilty Pleasures: Sarah Ross likes to read trashy romance novels which she tells Frank Moses are terrible but so addictive.
  • Hand Cannon: Boggs' revolver and Cooper's compensated SIG both count.
  • Heel Face Turn: Sort of. For a given value of "face". Cooper may be ruthless and ambitious, but he's more of a Designated Villain and an Unwitting Pawn than anything else. Throughout the movie, his loyalties never actually change. Sure, he is first seen casually planting evidence before faking a man's suicide, but we're never given anything to actually indicate his target was a good guy... much like Frank before his retirement.
  • Heroic Comedic Sociopath: God bless John Malkovich.

 Frank: "Feel better?"

Marvin: "Yeah. Wanna get pancakes?"

  • Heroic Sacrifice: Joe, who lets himself be killed by a sniper to let the rest of the team escape.
  • If You Ever Do Anything To Hurt Him: Victoria to Sara: "So if you break his heart, I will kill you. And bury your body in the woods." Softened by Sarah's reaction: "Oh... wow... Okay." while nodding agreeably.
    • Also somewhat subverted by the fact Victoria herself has no romantic designs on Frank; she's just speaking as a friend.
  • I Have Your Wife: Played with when Cooper and Moses do it to each other. Cooper captures Sara, then Moses calls him to let him know that he is in Cooper's house and won't harm his family, in return for a guarantee of Sara's safety.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Moses, sorta. He doesn't want to be normal, but he'd really prefer it if people would stop shooting at him.
    • Though he mourns the boredom with his life asking Victoria how she deals with it, who reveals she became a mercenary to deal with the boredom.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each of the titles of the score album contains the acronym RED. Examples include "Retired Extremely Dangerous", "Rapidly, Executioners Destroyed", "Revenge Es Delicioso", etc.
  • Improvised Weapon: Combined with Batter Up, Boggs uses a grenade launcher like a bat and hits a grenade right back at the the guy who threw it.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Boggs shoots down an RPG with his S&W. Dead center.
    • Also notable is the absurd timing. Rocket Propelled Grenades are fast. Boggs put a bullet dead center on the tip of an rocket propelled grenade, after it had been fired, but before the shooter was outside the blast radius. Holy Shit.
      • Also a trope busted by the Myth Busters. While a bullet could set off the RPG round, if it managed to hit it, it still would have been far more fatal to the guy shooting the gun, than the guy who fired the RPG. Over this particular engagement range the bullet is faster, and should have impacted before RPG round's safety disengaged but the reaction time is still this trope.
  • Inspector Javert: Cooper. He turns when he finds out what's really going on.
  • Jumped At the Call: Sara, in an interesting variant; while the only reason she got involved was because Frank kidnapped her, which she definitely isn't happy about, once the true situation was explained she became an enthusiastic participant.
    • A clearer example is when Ivan explains the nature of the "favor" he wants from Frank, and Sara turns around and childishly begs, "Can we go?"
  • Lady of War: Victoria.
  • Lighter and Softer: A LOT, compared to its source material.
  • Living on Borrowed Time: Joe, who decides to sacrifice himself due to terminal cancer.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Invoked by Moses when he hides in a broom closet long enough to build a bomb out of the materials he finds.
  • Lzherusskie: Brian Cox (a Scot) as Ivan.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Or rather "The Man In Front Of The Man" - Dunning is the real Big Bad, and Wilkes is his Dragon. Stanton is a mere pawn and scapegoat. Cooper is just doing his job.
  • Mandatory Unretirement: Well, he was just trying to be normal, until the assassins kicked in his door.
  • Master Apprentice Chain: brought up in this exchange; Moses has Cooper in an arm-lock;

 Moses: Kordeski trained you?

Cooper: Yeah...

Moses: I trained Kordeski.

[SNAP]

  • A Match Made in Stockholm: Frank and Sara. Not as many unfortunate implications as usual, as Frank is only dragging Sara along with him against her will to keep her from being killed, which is what leads to them starting a relationship.
  • Mood Whiplash: Played for laughs when Moses and Ivan reminisce about their past job. Ivan mourns the loss of his fellow agent and cousin, whom Moses has supposedly killed. It is all very sombre. After downing a drink, Moses deadpans that said cousin is actually still alive - a defector who is now quite obese and owns a chain of 7-11s. Ivan is shocked at the news that Ivan is still alive and a defector, but laughs at his weight and business.
  • Mook Horror Show: Moses kills the hit team at the beginning of the movie one-by-one seemingly from out of nowhere. The last guy even panics and empties his machine gun wildly until it jams and he desperately tries to unjam his gun before Moses kills him.
    • During the climactic sequence, we keep cutting to the Secret Service's perspective as they just try to do their jobs, protecting a man they don't know is corrupt. We don't see any actually die. The DVD commentary notes that Victoria's gun would've punched through even an armored limo and killed all of them.
  • More Dakka: M-16s aren't enough, they brought SAWs to try and take down Moses in his house.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Victoria. She looks so sweet and innocent!
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: Marvin shoots an RPG out of the air and suffers no injury. The one who fired the RPG, however...
  • No Mere Windmill: Boggs. Just... Boggs. And he's right. Years of paranoia and LSD will do that to you.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened at the end of the film. All we know is that it involved Moses pushing Marvin (in a dress) in a wooden handcart with a nuclear bomb while a very angry army is in hot pursuit. There are also explosions.
    • Sara's been kidnapped, duct-taped, drugged, and driven hundreds of miles while unconscious. It's not the worst first date she's been on.
  • Not My Driver: The Vice President and two Secret Service Agents finally make it to a limo that gets away from the attack... only for Frank Moses to turn around in the driver's seat and taser them all. This is a particularly good example, because Genre Savvy viewers may have been expecting the earlier Service limo to be Moses, except that one was disabled too.
  • Not So Different: Very subtly done with pictures of characters wearing the Marines uniform: one is in Frank Moses' file, the other on the wall at agent Cooper's house.
  • Old Flame: Victoria and Ivan.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. When Moses gets shot in the shoulder they have to seek medical assistance, and when Victoria gets shot by the secret service agents, she chooses to stay behind, because the wound seriously impaired her ability to walk, much less complete the mission. Ivan carries her out, and presumably patches her up offscreen.
  • Outside Ride: Subverted. Cooper tries to jump onto a car he is chasing, with a respectably badass maneuver. He almost immediately falls off.
  • Phone Trace Race: Set up when Frank calls Cooper and Cooper is encouraged to keep Frank on the line long enough to let the trace run, though in this case the trace is actually completed successfully long before the call ends because Frank was calling from Cooper's house and wanted Cooper to know it.
  • Precision F-Strike: Cooper gets one towards the end, especially noticeable as there honestly isn't much swearing in the film up until that point.
  • Pretty in Mink: Victoria in a white mink coat.
  • Properly Paranoid: Marvin believes that he was a guinea pig in a mind control experiment, thinks a helicopter is following him, and even holds up a Innocent Bystander with his Hand Cannon because he thinks she was an enemy agent. He's right about all three.
  • Punch Clock Villain: The numerous police, feds and secret service agents that try to either apprehend Moses and the crew or protect the VP. Impressively, the heroes never kill a single one of these guys, instead only taking out the mercenaries and CIA assassins whose job is to eliminate them.
    • Also, Ivan in a way. If the movie was set during the Cold War, Ivan and Frank may well have been mortal enemies trying to kill each other. However, with the Iron Curtain fallen, Ivan becomes more of an ambivalent ally who misses the excitement and subterfuge of the Cold War.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: To Moses when he's holding the Vice President hostage
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Joe happily quotes the trope when the team has Victoria, Sara, Joe, Frank, and Marvin.
  • Retired Badass: Moses and his team. There's a reason R.E.D. stands for "Retired, Extremely Dangerous" after all.
  • Retired Badass Roundup
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: than an RPG.
  • Rule of Cool: Helen Mirren with a chaingun Browning Machine Gun.50.
    • Casually stepping out of a car while it's doing a donut automatically qualifies your film for this.
    • As does shooting an incoming RPG with a revolver bullet and causing the explosion to back blast onto the person who fired it - "Old man my ass" indeed
  • Rushed Inverted Reading: Sara with Forbes magazine while waiting for Frank at the CIA building.
  • Sequel Hook: Played straight, then subverted as we actually see the events that were implied to happen. See Noodle Incident.
  • Shoot Your Mate: Victoria mentions to Sarah how MI-6 once ordered her to kill an enemy agent she'd started a relationship with. When asked what she did, she replies, "I put three bullets in his chest." The agent was Ivan, who still loves her and took the bullets as a sign of her enduring affection - if she'd wanted to kill him, she would have shot him in the head.
    • Leads to some Fridge Brilliance Foreshadowing; when they decide to go to Victoria to deal with Frank's gunshot wound, Marvin asks Frank if he wants to wear a vest. Frank gloomily replies "Wouldn't work."
  • Showdown At High Noon: Marvin with his Hand Cannon vs. a CIA hitwoman with her RPG.
  • Shown Their Work: Former CIA field officer Robert Baer was a consultant for the film, and does DVD Commentary. The film is largely accurate, but he notes the usage of cheats for the sake of story. The Back Room, for example, is more or less real, but the RED designation isn't. There's a scene where Moses makes a cell phone call from the library, and Baer notes that in real life, Frank would've stolen a phone from someone if he didn't have time to find a pay phone. Most hilariously, he says that a lot of Briggs paranoia about "the grid" is justified, and he often sounds like the character.
  • Sinister Surveillance: Coupled with Spy Satellites and Black Helicopters. Martin's Properly Paranoid after them, as the CIA taking out the second witness shows.
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: Victoria Brown with a tripod-mounted Browning, the redheaded CIA agent with a rocket launcher. Neither are young, but both are toting improbably large weapons for their stature.
  • Smug Snake: William Dunning.
  • Spy Fiction - A nice mixture of Stale Beer/Martini Spy Fiction. Maybe even fits parody as well.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Sarah and the CIA agents. Of course, they are armed agents and she's a cubicle monkey. It would presumably be much less effective on, say, Victoria. The only person to even get close enough to try doesn't even get a chance.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Mostly during the CIA ambush.
  • Title Drop: Retired, Extremely Dangerous.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Just about everyone in the film under the age of forty. They look at Moses and the other Old Masters and only see "old guys", never quite realizing, despite repeated humiliating defeats at their hands, that anyone who has managed to survive to a ripe old age In Harm's Way is obviously really damned good at NOT DYING!
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers for the film make it clear that Joe didn't really die the first time we think he did, and they also show the CIA hitwoman whom Frank earlier thinks is an innocent bystander facing off against Marvin.
  • Villain Ball: With William Dunning actually shouting at Joe and Moses (and the audience), "I Am The Bad Guy!" before getting knocked out by Joe. Sure enough, he was.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Played with. The team kills the wet work team, CIA assassins, and various mercenaries who are actively trying to kill them; but most of whom are presumably unaware of the conspiracy. They are very careful however not to kill any of the police, FBI, and Secret Service they encounter, who are completely unaware of the conspiracy.
  • Woman in White: Victoria wears a white dress and white mink coat to the final showdown. It later becomes a non-wedding example of Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress, though Ivan complicates matters by carrying her around like a bride over the threshold.
    • Sara's white parka also qualifies.
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