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Red: movie review

Helen Mirren stars as an aging action hero in 'Red.'

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In order for it to work at all, "RED" should not be taken seriously on any level. Whenever it touches on the real world – whenever it brings up torture and terrorism and assassination of US leaders – it loses its bearings.

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It also suffers from being yet another movie, in the wake of "The A-Team" and "The Expendables," about an aging cadre of codgers facing off at the OK Corral. (Among the many films it pilfers from is "The Wild Bunch.") For years, Hollywood has been trying to figure out what to do with its superannuated action stars. The answer, it turns out, is simple: Cast aging action heroes as aging action heroes. (Now that Governor Schwarzenegger is about to step down, don't be surprised if he reenters the fray big-time.)

Another reason these films, which also include "Knight and Day," with Tom Cruise, are resurgent is that, with their comic-book frolics, they serve as antidotes to the grim "Bourne" movies and their ilk (like "Salt").

By not taking themselves too seriously, they provide an alternate-­universe romper room that harks back to the comfy days of cold warriorism. "RED," in fact, features a Russian operative and former cold-war spy, Brian Cox's Ivan, who's as warm and fuzzy as a teddy bear.

"RED" is a poisoned valentine to the CIA, and that approach, too, is in keeping with its cold-war sentimentality. For most of the way, the film's chief CIA baddie, played by Karl Urban, is as sleek and soulless as his high-tech weaponry, but this just proves that the CIA isn't what it used to be when Frank and Joe lived high on the hog. "RED" is a goofball lament. It's saying that in the good old days, or at least in the good old movie days, our killers were good-time guys. Grade: B- (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language.)

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Tamara Drewe