This deservedly popular Spy-vs-Spy thriller mixes BOURNE IDENTITY/MISSION IMPOSSIBLE action style with a crew of grizzled agents-in-retirement and a wide-eyed ringer straight out of ROMANCING THE STONE. Mostly, it’s a lot of fun. Bruce Willis is the retired CIA spy who pitches woo over the phone with his Kansas City-based case worker, Mary-Louise Parker. But when a decades-old assignment boomerangs in his face, his easeful days are over and she finds herself playing out the action adventure of her dreams. These two are adorable together, and by the time Willis adds the rest of his retired pals (Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren & ‘Ruskie’ Brian Cox) a big case of the ‘cutes’ threatens to overrun the movie. But since there’s no call to take either the pyrotechnics or the shaggy dog plot seriously, you can just sit back and enjoy the star turns. Richard Dreyfuss & even Ernest Borgnine eventually show up, but it's Malkovich who trots off with pic, effortlessly caging laughs off his darker edges. By the time the film wraps, you may actually be looking forward to the presumed sequel.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Typically, Robert Schwentke shows lots of technical skill megging the chases, blasts & explosions of a modern spy meller. But ask him to stage a slap or a punch in a scene where Richard Dreyfuss is strapped to a chair and the man can’t find the angle that would ‘sell’ the shot.
SPOILER: Back when Woody Strode & Jim Brown took one for whitey in SPARTACUS/’60 and THE DIRTY DOZEN/’67, the sacrifice had a progressive edge to it. But what’s it doing hanging around in 2010? Some sort of post-ironic comment? ‘Trope pulled out of retirement! Audience barely notices!’