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 (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 Sarah Ross (Parker), a civilian office drone helping him with pension checks. He had been planning on going to Kansas City to see her when a CIA team, under orders from Agent William Cooper (Urban), bursts into his house and tries to have him killed. Since they had him under surveillance, Frank realizes that they must know about Sarah, and he's forced to kidnap her while he seeks help from other former members of the intelligence community (basically all the remaining cast). Meanwhile, Cooper is discovering that the entire ordeal doesn't seem to add up. What follows is part Road Movie, part Romantic Comedy and part action movie, as Frank gathers up his old CIA crew and gets to the bottom of their new R.E.D.(Retired, Extremely Dangerous) titles.The film seems to have been made primarily so that a bunch of... matured actors, many of them famed for dramatic work, could ham it up with very large guns, and is fun to watch even if only because everyone in the cast and crew seem to be enjoying themselves. A sequelnote which has nothing to do with Wedge Antilles' designation in the original 1977 film was released on July 19th, 2013.
This film contains examples of:
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.
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.
Of course, we aren't given any information on that operation. The team could have replaced the army's ammunition with blanks, for a all we know.
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.
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?
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. In a Brick Joke, Sara has to do this to an Iranian diplomat in the sequel.
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 weapon still manages to fire 16 rounds after that reload.
Car Fu: Subverted when Cooper rams Frank's car in New Orleans — while the car is still spinning, Frank leaps out and empties his pistol at Cooper, who gets the hell out of there, realising this harmless retired analyst is anything but.
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.
Frank: Well, he thought he was the subject of a secret government mind control project. (beat) As it turns out, he really was being given daily doses of LSD for 11 years.
Sara: Well, in that case, he looks great.
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.
Han beats the crap out of policemen with the door of a store fridge.
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 M2 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.
The deleted scenes clearly show he's in the concrete lined underground basement.
Also averted for those metal containers at the airport, although no one was shot through them.
Heavily averted in the sequel, where Han's minigun shreds cars and stone statues to pieces.
Continuity Nod: At Marvin's funeral, Frank mentions how the mission they performed in Moldova at the end of the first film made Marvin a national hero there.
Crazy Survivalist: Marvin. Justified - he was subject to a number of mind-altering experiments when he was in the CIA.
Han vs. a whole bunch of policemen in Moscow in the sequel.
Cutting the Knot: Faced with an unbreakable electronic lock, Frank simply kicks a hole in the wall next to it and opens the lock manually.
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.
Marvin Boggs has something... odd... going on after being dosed with LSD for eleven years. But that doesn't mean he's not Properly Paranoid.
Also played with in the sequel. Jack Horton thinks he is this, but still gets duped by Bailey.
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, likely due to the fact that, as far as the nurse knows, Joe is a harmless old man with Stage 4 Liver Cancer.
The Dreaded: The way the team talks about Victoria just before she is introduced makes it feel like they're reluctant to meet her and might not survive that. Totally justified, given the kind of work these people do, and the fact that when we actually see her she's hiding a SUBMACHINE GUN under a pile of flowers.
Dual Tonfas: Han in the sequel does an improvised variant of this at one point.
Continuity Nod : It is used at least twice on random hostages in the sequel.
Enemy Mine: In Red 2, Frank manages to convince Han, who was sent to assassinate him, to join forces in order to stop the Big Bad.
Establishing Character Moment: The first time we see Cooper, he's on the phone talking to his wife about his children while moving around a hotel room planting evidence. Then he hangs a guy. Then he accepts a mission to kill Frank.
Moses and Sara: Frank Moses wakes up at six in the morning (without his alarm going off) and goes through a cardiac 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.
When we first see Han, he is going in to an extremely high security building where he is literally stripped of all of his clothes and equipment in order to get close to his target, and manages to assassinate him with a folded picture ( that the target gave him! ) and waltzes out of the building without anybody realizing what had happened.
The Frog does this to Sara and Boggs in the sequel while they are stuck in their car. Then he is hit by Frank's car.
Foot Focus: In Red 2, Victoria is laying down covering fire with her sniper rifle - while Ivan rhapsodizes about how her toes curl as she pulls the trigger.
Genius Bonus: The reason feet are such a common fetish is because the feet and the erogenous zones connect to sections of the brain which are very close together, and it's not uncommon for wires to get crossed occasionally. This puts Victoria's toe curling in an entirely different light.
The Fun in Funeral: At Marvin's funeral in Red 2, not only does Frank go on about how the government doped him with LSD, but stabs a needle into Marvin's hand because he's completely convinced Marvin is faking it. Which he is.
Gatling Good: Han in the sequel uses a machinegun against Frank and Marvin when he's really angry.
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.
The Guards Must Be Crazy: In Red 2, Victoria is trying to bypass the electronic lock on a door leading to a secret prison wing. When she can't manage it, Frank simply knocks on the door, causing the guard on the other side to open it and complain about how they're not following standard protocol. He realizes his mistake a bit too late, of course.
Guilty Pleasures: Sarah Ross likes to read trashy romance novels which she tells Frank Moses are terrible but so addictive.
Guns Akimbo: Both Han (as expected of a Hong Kong-based Bad Ass) and Victoria get to do this in the sequel.
Hand Cannon: Boggs' revolvers most definitely qualify. Cooper's compensated Sig P220 Sport looks the part, but it's actually chambered in .45 ACP (the compensator makes up much of the bulk).
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 guynote Besides, everyone knows that "Don't you know who I am?!" is something only bad guys ever say.... much like Frank before his retirement.
To an even less degree in the sequel. Horton appears to truly enjoy his work of murdering and torturing to get the information he needs. However he appears to truly believe he is defending America and appears horrified when he learns about the weapon later in the film.
Hoist by His Own Petard: In the sequel, this is how Frank ultimately defeated Bailey and his Nightshade bomb, by discreetly leaving it on Bailey's plane so that when it blew up, it took Bailey with it.
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.
Horton tries this in the sequel with Moses, but Moses isn't fooled.
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.
Incredibly Obvious Bomb: Marvin drives the Secret Service in the direction he wants by charging towards them while strapped with dynamite and a ridiculously large Micky Mouse clock. Played straight in the sequel with the Red Mercury bomb.
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 case of Reality is Unrealistic: Mythbusters tested this, and the grenade doesn't arm until it is already a good distance away from the shooter, since the RPG is an inertia-triggered weapon.
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?"
And in the sequel Frank is planning their future together, while Sara would prefer to go on another mission. Frank's friends keep pointing out she's with him for the excitement, and he eventually resigns himself to the inevitable and presents her with a gun as a gift.
[Moses dislocates Cooper's shoulder with a cringeworthy *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.
Really their relationship had already started, with the phone calls, the reading the same books, and the intent to meet up soon. The kidnapping actually threatened to deepsix the burgeoning relationship, until Sarah realized it was all for real and got into it.
Mission Control: In the sequel, Bai appeared to work with one before Moses stole his plane.
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 Igor 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 machinegun 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 realistically punched through even an armored limo and killed all of them.
Early in the sequel, Moses single-handedly takes out a squad of 7 special forces-type mooks, one by one, much to their growing nervousness.
More Dakka: M-16s aren't enough, they brought SAWs to try and take down Moses in his house.
Han's minigun in the sequel.
Mugged for Disguise: Frank steals a fireman's uniform to get out of the CIA building after being shot and bleeding over his white shirt. Played for Laughs with the waiter who's suddenly pulled into an industrial garbage bin by an unseen person (later revealed to be Martin).
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 and makeshift leg splint) 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.
The sequel ends with another: Whatever case required Sarah to dress as a cha-cha dancer in Venezuela... who happens to be carrying an assault rifle. And Marvin's dressed as Carmen Miranda, apparently for his own amusement.
Cooper: I didn't know this place [the CIA Back Room] existed. Records keeper: It doesn't.
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 Ivan blew that one up 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.
Heck Moses even flat out states he was just like him.
Obfuscating Insanity: Bailey in the sequel. He comes across as very confused and forgetful, which makes sense considering he was locked up for 35 years.
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.
Played straight with Cooper after Moses dislocates his shoulder; he has a sling for one scene and then it disappears without any apparent residual pain.
Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: In Red 2, Marvin is curled up to Frank while they're pinned down by Han. Frank asks if Marvin has a stick of dynamite in his pocket.
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.
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, sees an opportunity to rekindle an old love affair, and wants to collect on the favor Frank owes him.
Revealing Coverup: bonus points for being a cover-up of a cover-up. In 1981 a young Army officer snapped and massacred an entire village in Guatemala. A number of CIA agents, including Moses, were shuttled in to clean up the mess. Now, some 30 years later, a young reporter named Stephanie Chen has gotten wind of the thing, and tries to get the scoop from someone else who was involved, arms magnate Alexander Dunning (Dreyfuss). He calls the young Army officer—Vice President Robert Stanton—who panics and just decides to Kill 'em All. (Again.) And this brings us back to Frank and Sarah. All of this is revealed to be a ruse because Dunning was planning to make Stanton the president and use the incident to blackmail him. Any surviving witnesses to the original incident (Frank, Joe, the people the reporter talked to) had to go because they knew too much.
Shoot the Hostage: After Moses takes one of his Mooks hostage, Horton shoots him when after figuring out that Moses was still outnumbered 7-1 and handcuffed. At the end of the movie Sara is being held at gunpoint by Dr Bailey and begs Frank to shoot rather than let him detonate his Weapon of Mass Destruction. Frank just puts down his gun, but only to fool Bailey into thinking he's won.
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 BrillianceForeshadowing; 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."
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 Boggs' paranoia about "the grid" is justified, and he often sounds like the character.
The Smurfette Principle: Victoria and Sarah are the only female characters in the team, and Sarah is not even an official member, being a civilian who was caught up in the mess along the way.
Spy Fiction: A nice mixture of Stale Beer and Martini, with a few forays into parody.
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.
Super Cell Reception: 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.
Tempting Fate: Played straight on several occasions, and lampshaded at the end of the movie when Sara expresses relief that they survived; Marvin immediately says something bad will now happen. Surprisingly, nothing does. Except Ivan mentions he has a little job for them in Moldovia...
Thousand-Yard Stare: Sara has this in Red 2 after she's forced to kill a guard. Being taken hostage by the Big Bad snaps her out of it.
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 that career field 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.
Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: When Sara drops the contact and the soldiers burst in, there's a long awkward pause before she effortlessly bluffs them.
Villain Ball: With Alexander 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.
We Need a Distraction: Several examples, including Ivan spraying an aerosol to make everyone think there's a gas leak.
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.