RED 2 (2013) / Action-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for pervasive violence, some language and drug material
Running time: 116 min.
Cast: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Neil McDonough, Brian Cox, David Thewlis
Director: Dean Parisot
Screenplay: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber (based on the comic book series by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner
Review published August 11, 2013
RED 2 is the follow-up few were clamoring for to the 2010 mild hit action-comedy, RED (which stands for "Retired - Extremely Dangerous"), based on the Warren Ellis comic book. Those who enjoyed that movie thought it an amiable time-killer full of enough escapist laughs and action to sate their yearning for low-overhead entertainment, but they didn't exactly think that two more hours of the same is what is called for. Regardless, someone somewhere pushed forward the notion that there is a big following out there, enough to justify another big-budget release, and now we have a sequel, giving us pretty much more of the same.
The one major difference is that Dean Parisot (Fun with Dick and Jane, Galaxy Quest) takes over as director from Robert Schwentke, and while he does little to innovate the film into something truly unique, he does manage to keep the proper tone from the first film to tread the line between comedy and deadly action to keep things palatable for viewers looking for both. As with RED the screenplay is written by Jon and Erich Hoeber, who also collaborated on the schlocky-jokey Battleship, which featured characterizations just as thin and a plot just as silly to follow.
The film opens with retired ex-CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis, GI Joe: Retaliation) and his main squeeze Sarah (Parker, RIPD) having settled in to a relatively boring life, though she is obviously only interesting in more shoot-em-up adventures. Frank would like to keep her out of harm's way, but doesn't get his wish, as Frank and his crackpot crony Marvin Boggs (Malkovich, Warm Bodies) have been embroiled in the details of a top secret case from the late 1970s called Nightshade, in which a nuclear bomb had been smuggled in to Moscow. It's up to the old team to stay alive, while baddies are out to snuff them out, and also to thwart any potential plans to resurrect the nefarious nuclear bomb detonation over 30 years later.
As far as locales, RED 2 traverses the globe from the US through Europe to Russia, featuring some fairly nifty animated transitions that evoke the feeling of reading the comic book. Each locale is usually good for one big set piece featuring a car chase or some martial arts-tinged fighting, and a new character or two to add to the faux-witty repartee. The moments of violence and kill count is high, though done in a bloodless, stylistic fashion in order to stay true to the intended PG-13 rating. It's all quite fluffy and exists in its own feather-weight world where such things as realism and physics take a back seat for whatever may look cool for the moment, or to deliver another instance of cheekiness.
While Willis continues to phone in his performance with the same on-screen persona he's been giving us for the last decade or two, the other main actors get their chances to shine, especially an always fun Helen Mirren (Monsters University, Hitchcock) and John Malkovich, who know well enough to play to the audience that they know that the movie they're in is meant to be nothing but a hammy lark. The other stand out is Byung-hun Lee (GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I Saw the Devil), who adds some much needed hand-to-hand combat to the equation, to keep things from being just a bunch of redundant explosions and gunfire from beginning to end. Even Parker manages to up her game and turn her annoying character into one that has as much fun with the material as possible, this time doing whatever she can to actually get involved with the world of international superspies. Catherine Zeta-Jones (Side Effects, Rock of Ages) is a net zero, supposed to play the Russian spy who is Frank Moses' 'kryptonite', but it's obvious whenever you see them together that there's no spark between them. Anthony Hopkins (Thor, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) is really only in there to lend heft to his role to balance out the other elder thesps.
The first RED was only marginal entertainment with enough star power to get things over the hump for those looking for a few yuks featuring some of their favorite actors. RED 2 is content to give us more of the same, no more and no less. If you liked the first entry, chances are you'll like this one, and if you didn't, chances are you won't. It's generic, formulaic, and forgettable -- meant to be consumed in the moment and disposed of once the credits start to roll. Hopefully the franchise will finally live up to its name and stay 'Retired', with no expectation of coming back out of the cold for one more go-round.
©2013 Vince Leo