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Department of English and Film Studies


This paper explores the treatment of ageing in the ensemble action hero series RED (2010 and 2013) starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren and The Expendables (2010, 2012, and 2014) starring Sylvester Stallone and other 1980s action stars. These two series combine action with comedy to thematize two sets of issues in relation ageing—first, about competence and usefulness and, second, about meaningful relationships. In the RED series, these two overarching concerns are linked explicitly to ageing whereas, in the Expendables films, these concerns replace those about ageing. In other words, the Expendables series mainly ignores ageing and presents its heroes as operating in a continuum of middle-age action, while the RED series explores many of the key issues of ageing in twenty-first century America. The RED and Expendables series rewrite the established narrative of ageing and it is this departure from stereotyped representations of ageing which generates the comedic moments in the films but also what makes them interesting to ageing audiences. The stars and heroes of RED and Expendables are popular precisely because they are not acting their age.


Note: This is the English language version of a paper published in French as « Vieillir, agir: les héros d’âge mûr dans deux séries de films d’action hollywoodiens.» L’Âge des stars: des images à l’épreuve du vieillissement. Eds. Charles-Antoine Courcoux, Gwénaëlle Le Gras, Raphaëlle Moine. L’Âge d’homme, 2017. pp 130-50. Permission to reprint the paper in English is graciously given by the editors of the collection.