Starring : Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Lee Byung-hun, Anthony Hopkins, Brian Cox, Catherine Zeta-Jones, David Thewlis, Neal McDonough
Director : Dean Parisot
Release Date : 25 Jul 2013
A little creaky maybe, but still pretty entertaining, this globe-trotting sequel packs some unexpected laughs.
LIKE most sequels, RED 2 (RED being short for Retired, Extremely Dangerous) is bigger and covers a lot more territory than the original. You might say it tries a bit too hard, both to top its predecessor and to mask its skimpy premise.
Still, even if the strain of the effort shows, the sequel does pack some good laughs and cool action sequences. Who would have thought that an unlikely pair like Helen Mirren and Lee Byung-hun (that Storm Shadow guy) could feature in one of the summer’s “whoa” movie moments?
RED 2 reunites some beloved old (beg pardon, senior) characters while introducing a couple of new players to fill the void left by Morgan Freeman. And it has a scene with two Hannibal Lecters in it ... how cool is that from a film geek’s perspective?
RED fellas Frank (Bruce Willis) and Marvin (John Malkovich) have become the targets of yet another conspiracy, this time concerning an old covert operation from the late 1970s.
They’re hunted by a ruthless government fixer (Neal McDonough) over something codenamed Nightshade and targeted by the world’s best killers, including old pal Victoria Winslow (Helen Mirren) and a former friend of Frank’s, Han Cho Bai (Lee Byung-hun), who now hates him with a vengeance.
Then, there’s Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian spy who used to be very involved with Frank, and Anthony Hopkins as a seemingly doddering scientist who’s been locked away by MI6 for 32 years. It has quite the star-studded cast, which might lead you to expect too much of this outing. Dial back those expectations and you should have a fun time with this.
While the humour in RED, as I recall, flowed quite easily from the situations in which Frank, Marvin and Co. found themselves, it seems more dependent on contrivances and set-ups here. Most of the time, Willis is relegated to playing straight man to almost everyone else, including Mary-Louise Parker as Frank’s girlfriend Sarah.
The two are having relationship troubles and Frank is ignoring what all his friends are telling him about the obvious signs. Heck, even the people trying to kill him have something to say about it (leading a deadpan Han to deliver one of the film’s funniest lines).
While the excuse for sending the group cavorting around Europe is pretty thin, at least the couple’s problems are nicely worked into the plot, with each new development in their mission helping the two work out another kink. Though the way each of them somehow ends up kissing other people along the way is pretty funny too....
Willis seems content to merely react to everything that’s going on around him rather than actually take the lead in any situation – something he’s been doing a lot lately, from that odd vigilante flick Fire With Fire to even his signature character John McClane’s most recent outing in A Good Day To Die Hard. Scripting flaws, or is the actor somehow insisting on taking a back seat even when he’s the star?
Parker, on the other hand, is engagingly, endearingly twitchy (actually, stopping just short of silliness) and plays every scene like she’s about to explode. Plus she’s got the most bizarrely upturned grin I’ve seen sinceInsidious. It can get a bit unsettling, especially when it’s hard to take your eyes off her.
Anyway, if Frank and Sarah’s personal issues get a bit too much to stomach, there’s always the welcome return of Victoria who, besides the “whoa” moment above, has a hilarious scene with her Russian beau Ivan (Brian Cox) ... in a field ... while she’s firing a sniper rifle (yup, RED 2 is quite adept at wringing mirth out of the least likely situations).
Lee does a terrific job kicking @$$ whenever he appears, and is another welcome addition to the cast. And we would expect no less of Hopkins than the subtle way in which he works a nasty streak into his character – think of a homicidal, ruthless Walter Bishop (too bad if you’ve never watched Fringe). Quite well played, sir.
When you get to a certain point in your life (trying hard to avoid more “ageist” terms, though I’m fast approaching the border crossing myself), you do tend to go on. Like its golden (there, how’s that) protagonists, the RED saga itself has a tendency to “just go on and on” – especially since not many people really expected this sequel.
But, if you’ll forgive its occasional ramblings, you may just find entertainment of a highly-enjoyable vintage, stuff that never gets old.