All things considered, Red 2 is still a fun way to kill time in a movie theater. It’s not as inspired as it’s originator, but you’ll find plenty worse in theaters this summer, I can assure you. Three kittenhands here for Helen Mirren alone.
I’m getting kind of tired of actually having conversations about the need or justifiability of sequels. They’re so ubiquitous these days that it just doesn’t seem worth the effort to wax on about how they annoy us. They aren’t going away so maybe we should just begrudgingly accept them already, like Justin Bieber or Facebook.
I only say this here because Red 2 isn’t a bad film, but it doesn’t contain much more inspiration than its’ obvious title. Red 2 is pretty much the same stuff we got in the first one, but just not as interesting or fleshed-out. We get most of the same cast as before, and some new faces as well.
Bruce Willis returns as Frank Moses, once again retired from special ops C.I.A., who has been settled down to suburban life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker). While shopping in a CostCo, Frank bumps into old pal Marvin, played again by the wonderful John Malkovich. Marvin warns Frank that something is up, and that turns out to be a leaked story about a failed government plan from 20 years ago. Now Frank and his compatriots are listed as domestic terrorists and everybody is out to get them. On top of that, they need to get to the bottom of this failed plan, and retrieve a portable nuclear device before it ends up in the wrong hands.
What saves this film is the stellar cast. Willis is still solid. He’s got so much experience doing this sort of thing he could do it in his sleep – and probably has a few times. But he’s good here. Mary Louise-Parker is great here, and gets to expand her character a bit and have some fun. Malkovich is good, too. He gets many of the good lines and is his quirky self here. Helen Mirren returns as Victoria and also gets much of the good lines and scenes. Added to the mix is Anthony Hopkins as Baily, a scientist responsible for maknig the crazy portable bomb. He also is clearly having fun and makes the most of his screen time. Byung-hun Lee stars as Agent Han Choi Bai, who is happy to be assigned the job of taking out Frank. He gets lots of action scenes where he dishes out lots of whuppass.
Also here is Catherine Zeta-Jones as Russian agent Katja, who knows Frank rather well. This provides some relationship stuff with her and Frank, and Sarah hating her. This is really the weakest part of the film and they could have left it out, but whatever. David Thewlis is here briefly and provides some cool action and a fun car chase in Paris. And the always awesome Neal McDonough plays Jack Horton, a dangerous guy who gets things done. If you saw him in the show Justified, you’ll see a similar role here. But he’s great anyway.
Most of what goes on in Red 2 isn’t exactly breaking new ground. That’s really the main trouble here. It’s doesn’t really expand or develop much of the characters any more than we’ve already seen in the first one. Some of that is replaced with more action. Not such a bad thing, but it ceratinly shouldn’t be at the expense of needed character development. The plot is pretty standard and has some twists, but they aren’t particularly surprising. But despite all that, there’s some funny lines here, as well as some entertaining set pieces. And like the first film, everyone seems to be having a good time and that translates to the screen. Red 2 has a fairly light, fun feel to it and it’s pretty hard to dislike it. Fans of the first one will enjoy seeing these characters again, but first timers may find it a bit thin.
All things considered, Red 2 is still a fun way to kill time in a movie theater. It’s not as inspired as it’s originator, but you’ll find plenty worse in theaters this summer, I can assure you. Three kittenhands here for Helen Mirren alone. She’s great in this. Who says a serious actress can’t just have fun once in a while?
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, thinking that after seeing Red 2, the first one seems even better than when I first saw it.