Willis and the gang are clearly having a blast playing off of each other. Parker has remarkable comic timing, infusing lines like "Well I was hoping you'd have hair" (to Willis) with a style that actresses half her age can't muster. Mirren is equally as delightful, lobbing zingers like "If you hurt him, I'll kill you and bury your body in the woods" so well that you don't know whether to cringe or laugh. And when Malkovich asks, "Can I kill him now?" it's like an impatient small child pleading for his dessert, and the resulting humor is infectious. The supporting cast does well, too. Brian Cox, one of those chameleonic actors who can play a Russian spy in Red as easily as King Lear, always adds value to an ensemble, and he doesn't disappoint. And Urban, who was Dr. McCoy in Star Trek, should be cast in action films more often. He's got a steely look and a powerful charisma that works whether he's straight-laced as in Red or bad-boy like The Bourne Supremacy. But he's the young 'un, and this movie definitely belongs to the over-55 actors, all of whom prove that with age comes a mastery of craft that, with the right script is, as Sarah would say, "awesome."
Unlike the rough-and-tumble stars of ensemble action movie The Expendables (which Willis graced with a small cameo), all of Willis' retired secret-op friends in RED are played by Academy Award winners or nominees. That makes a huge difference in the expectation and delivery of performances. It's unthinkable that Jason Statham or Dolph Lundgren would take on Shakespearean adaptations, but within context of this movie, Malkovich, Freeman, and even Mirren are all quite believable as government operatives who've spent their careers tracking down and assassinating people. How wonderful that a movie in which the youngest actor, Urban, is 38, and the oldest, Ernest Borgnine, is 93, could be so thrilling and funny that you never once miss the busty or hunky eye-candy that usually appears in action films.