Reel Deal: Outmatched, underestimated movie heroes beat the odds

Robert McCune

When the odds are stacked against you, sometimes you just need a good movie soundtrack playing in your head.

Da-da-da-DA ... Da-da-DA-da-da ... Da-da-da-DA ... Da-da-da-da-da-da-da ...

Something with a beat to get the blood pumping, the heart racing, and the brain ... well, temporarily out of service, I guess ... because who in their right mind would barrel into a fight they’re so ridiculously outmatched for?

This week’s Reel Deal column stacks four retirees and a spy romance novel aficionado up against the entire CIA; an idiot against a missile-toting madman; and a king against a debilitating stutter.

Cue music.


Retirement doesn’t really suit Frank Moses – or the guy playing him, Bruce Willis, in “Red.”

Moses isn’t the kind to stop and smell the roses. He routinely rips up his retirement check so he has an excuse to call and chat with a female clerk (Sarah Ross, played by Mary Louise-Parker) he’s grown attached to.

She dreams of exotic locations – most of which he’s seen but can’t describe because “it was at night.” Her fantasies, fueled by sappy romance novels, involve being seduced and spirited away in the dead of night by a suave spy.

She doesn’t realize the flirty retiree on the phone is a ex-spy until, thrust back into action by an unexpected late-night visit to his suburban Cleveland home by assassins, he shows up in her apartment and kidnaps her – to protect her, of course.

He soon realizes what he’s up against – the full measure and might of the CIA that pays his pension – and calls on his old (in every sense of the word) team, which includes rest-home-resident Joe (Morgan Freeman), paranoid madman Marvin (John Malkovich) and violent vixen Victoria (Helen Mirren).

The agent assigned to kill Frank and friends is young buck William Cooper (Karl Urban).

Flipping through Frank’s file, Cooper starts to understand who he’s up against. The “R.E.D.” stamp on the hefty, ridiculously redacted file says it all: “Retired, Extremely Dangerous.”

Adding another wrinkle to the cast are Ernest Borgnine (as harmless Henry, the records keeper), Brian Cox (as retired Russian spy Ivan Simanov) and Richard Dreyfuss (as “bad guy” Alexander Dunning).

The combined age of this all-star class is 554 – with 93-year-old Borgnine more than making up for the “new kids” on the block, Urban (38) and Louise-Parker (46).

At 55, it may be a little soon to issue an AARP card to Willis. As Marvin, Malkovich looks older than his 57 years – it’s probably the crazy eyes and wild hair – but he is mischievous as an infant.

Mirren (65) is like Martha Stewart with a machine gun – and sexy in her silver age.

Freeman (73) is like a clichéd bottle of fine wine: Better and better the frostier he gets.

The characters are animated, and the action exaggerated, but “Red” doesn’t much resemble the graphic novel (comic book) it is based on, or more accurately, inspired by.

The filmmakers took a page (and not much more) from its action-packed, plot-thin source and developed an awesome, franchise-worthy flick.

It blows 2010’s other aging ensemble actioners (“The A-Team,” “The Losers,” “The Expendables”) out of the water.

“Red” may not be the best movie of the year, but it’s definitely red-hot, and one of my favorites.

'MacGruber' is a dud

If you expected a 90-minute movie based on a 30-second “Saturday Night Live” skit to be stupid, “MacGruber” doesn’t disappoint.

Nothing in MacGruber’s MacGyver-like arsenal – certainly not bubblegum, paperclips or celery sticks – can save it from that fate.

Will Forte and Kristen Wiig reprise their “SNL” roles in this big-screen flop – joined by Ryan Phillipe as the TV skit’s rotating third wheel and Val Kilmer as the bad guy (Dieter Von Cunth), packing a stolen missile and a few extra pounds.

Powers Boothe (as Col. James Faith) in a rip-off of Col. Samuel Trautman (Richard Crenna) in “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” re-activates the bumbling Mr. Magoo-like MacGruber for a mission to bring down the madman who murdered Mrs. MacGruber on their wedding day 10 years prior.

MacGruber was presumed dead, too, and should’ve stayed that way.

But the misguided U.S. military is counting on him – even after his cracked brain lays waste to his crack special ops team – to save Washington, D.C.

MacGruber (like the crafty character he spoofs, played by Richard Dean Anderson for seven seasons on TV) refuses to carry a gun on his missions. He relies instead on pocket lint and the art of distraction to bring down bad guys.

Even as a distraction, though, “MacGruber” is a dud.

Translating it for the theaters, and an R rating, seems merely a stunt for ratcheting up the raunch factor.

As far as “SNL” movies go, it probably fits somewhere in between “Superstar” and “It’s Pat.”

If you want to see gross-out gags involving produce and stupid stunts, forget this jackass and see “Jackass 3D” in theaters instead.

Trailer time: 'The King's Speech'

As unlikely heir to the thrown Bertie, Colin Firth faces a formidable first foe: A speech impediment.

After the death of his father King George V and the scandalous abdication of Prince Edward VII, the stuttering Bertie is crowned England’s King George VI.

With his country on the brink of war and in desperate need of a leader, the new king and his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) call on an eccentric speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) for help.

With a royal cast like this one, “The King’s Speech” is certain to be a gem in Hollywood’s crown come awards season.

Robert McCune is editor of The Independent in Massillon, Ohio. Write to him at