"Red" coasts by on a lunkheaded charm that earns goodwill, even for an action-comedy that skimps on both serious thrills and big laughs.
Still, its cast of old pros " including Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and a machine gun-toting Helen Mirren " is having such a fun time playing dress-up and waving weapons and cracking wise, only the most hardhearted moviegoer could resist.
That isn't to say the film, which opens in theaters Friday, is irresistible, exactly. Think about the story line too much, as in "at all," and its idiocy quotient rockets off the charts.
Loosely based on a graphic novel, "Red" is one of those flicks where fierce gun battles and booming explosions don't draw a single police officer, where gunfire in CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., doesn't attract the attention of even a somewhat curious spook.
Willis ("The Expendables") stars as retired CIA operative Frank Moses, whose quiet bachelorhood is shattered when he's targeted for assassination by a shadowy government conspiracy. After his home is obliterated by gunmen, Frank and his would-be love interest (Mary-Louise Parker, TV's "Weeds") hit the road to reunite with a handful of his old spy coots for one big final mission.
It's not the most novel plot, but director Robert Schwentke ("The Time Traveler's Wife") imbues things with an agreeably sloppy wit and playfulness. Parker is sexily ditzy, Malkovich cops his impenetrable weirdo bit, and veterans like Richard Dreyfuss ("Piranha 3D") and 93-year-old Ernest Borgnine have a chance to join the party.
"Red" is a goof that works in spite of itself.