‘Red’ not award worthy, but worth watching multiple times

John Malkovich, left and Morgan Freeman in “Red.”
Published: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 1:27 p.m.

In vintage kung fu movies, a white beard was a sign of badness. It would take an entire school of young whipper-snappers to battle one old guy. Age was treated with respect — age meant wisdom, practice, skill. Nine times out of 10 that one old-timer would whip the entire school.


Nate rates it:

“Red:” Buy It
“Space Cowboys:” Rent It
“The Crew:” Watch It

Rating key
Buy It — worth adding to your personal collection; Rent It — worth paying money to watch
Watch It — worth watching for free
Skip It — not worth watching at all.


New DVD releases:
“Saw: The Final Chapter”
In this, the seventh and allegedly final installment of the epic torture franchise, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) continues to play his morbid games of life and death from beyond the grave.

“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest”
The culmination of the Swedish thriller trilogy has hard-edged goth hacker Lisbeth Salander dealing with the demons of her past.

Disney presents this family drama, based on the true story of the legendary racehorse, with stars Diane Lane, Scott Glenn, John Malkovich and James Cromwell.

“Open Season 3”
Boog the bear and Elliot the deer are back for another adventure, this time featuring Boog getting caught up in circus hi-jinks and facing a possible deportation to Russia.

“Like Dandelion Dust”
Mira Sorvino, Barry Pepper and child actor Maxwell Perry Cotton star in the story of one family trying to keep their adopted son after his biological parents try to get him back.

In American cinema, senior citizens are not treated with as much respect. Usually they are treated as cuddly, funny or sweet but harmless. Clint Eastwood is an exception, as is Bruce Willis’ new release this week.

“RED”: Willis stars as a retired covert operative/killing machine. Retirement does not suit him, and he wastes a lot of time making up reasons to talk to his Social Security lady Mary-Louise Parker on the phone. It all comes to an abrupt end when someone sends a government hit squad to rub him out. Willis is an old dog who knows all the tricks, and the hit team lasts about 15 seconds.

Willis rounds up his old team, all similarly not enjoying retirement, and with Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Brian Cox working with him, the government doesn’t stand a chance.

“Red” is a blast of pure, unadulterated fun. It is energetic, action-packed and filled with an amazing cast of actors that gives every scene a sense of humor and playfulness. Even if 400 people get shot, it’s one of those movies that just keeps you grinning.

The cast really makes the film. Every one of the leads is a pleasure to watch including Karl Urban as the young whipper-snapper agent charged with bringing in Willis. But part of the reason it works so well is because it’s refreshing to see an action movie where the old guys are so skilled that it takes an army to try and stop them.

“Red” isn’t the type of movie to win awards. But it is the type of movie that I am likely to watch time and again. Mirren with a sniper rifle? Cox with a cheesy Russian accent? Richard Dreyfuss as a weasel? Willis and Freeman just goofing off? I ask you — what is not to love?

“SPACE COWBOYS”: This 2000 film is another movie that fits the bill. Sure, these seniors don’t pack machine guns and explosives, but they’ve got the old-school swagger and skillset that make them invaluable to the hapless younger generations.

Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner used to be the top astronaut team in the burgeoning space business. A scheming cohort (James Cromwell, resplendent in his white-collar scumminess) gets them booted from NASA, and they never get their chance to go into space.

Forty years later, NASA big-shot Cromwell runs into a problem he can’t handle and is forced to turn to the only guys who can handle it. All four are lured out of retirement to get the chance they never had — go into space. And oh yeah, they have to prevent a catastrophe, as well. And if possible, they have to give Cromwell his comeuppance, because this is just that kind of movie.

Eastwood, Jones, Sutherland and Garner are all terrific in the leads. They have an easiness about them, a relaxed charm that comes from being in front of the camera for 50 years. And the friendship and camaraderie between them feels so natural that it gives the movie a really sweet, sentimental quality. Not in a cornball way, but in a fun way.

“Space Cowboys” is easy to watch. It is, as I like to say, a good time at the movies. And honestly, isn’t that what we are all looking for in a film?

“THE CREW”: Another film from 2000, this one features a quartet of retired gangsters living the boring life in Miami Beach. Burt Reynolds, Dan Hedaya, Seymour Cassel and Dreyfuss again all used to be big-shot wiseguys, and now they are just scraping by, until they find a dead body on the beach. They rig the crime scene to make it look like a vicious murder as a way to scare off the young punks who are ruining their beach condo.

“The Crew” is a B-movie all the way. And while the banter between the old timers works well, just like in the other films, the movie itself really isn’t in the same league with “Red” or “Space Cowboys.” It is a good bit of fun, with (once again) a good cast. Reynolds and Dreyfuss both have fun with their roles, and Hedaya is always a scene stealer.

Contact Nate Hensley at

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