Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Starring: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins
If returning writers Jon & Erich Hoeber were as concerned with narrative as they were with product placement – “who’s Papa John?” asks Anthony Hopkins’s previously incarcerated physicist – Red 2 could have potentially joined the likes of The Bourne Supremacy & Terminator 2 as a sequel that outshined the original. Unfortunately, the financial rewards no doubt reaped from close-ups of Costco & Pringles prevailed and we’re presented with nothing more than an unapologetic rehash of the first film, with a nuclear bomb McGuffin thrown in for good measure. Thankfully, the cast is still great fun to be around and, despite its flaws, Red 2 is an entertaining romp that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
We find ex-CIA agent Frank Moses enjoying the quiet life with his girlfriend Sarah, whose restlessness he is oblivious to. Thankfully for Sarah, the arrival of Marvin sets a plot in motion that sees our heroes reunite, along with MI6’s Victoria and ex-Russian agent Ivan, to track down a nuclear weapon that could go off if placed in the wrong hands.
It’s certainly no masterpiece but it does make up for pacing problems that plagued the original. The leisurely opening gives us a chance to reacquaint ourselves with the central trio, the chemistry between Willis, Parker & Malkovich plain to see. As with the original, it’s John Malkovich’s paranoid conspiracist that steals the show; with his crazy costumes (brown dressing gown, cowboy hat & shotgun) & questionable interrogation techniques generating many of the early laughs, his off-the-cuff remarks always creating giggles.
Other comedic highlights include the sight of Helen Mirren breaking into a British mental institution by screaming she’s the Queen of England while in a straight-jacket, or Brain Cox whispering nothings into Mirren’s ear as she snipers a Russian firing squad. Meanwhile, newcomer Anthony Hopkins creates some great middle act laughs, even if he does feel wasted as the film draws to a close.
Hopkins should be thankful he at least gets a few moments of glory, as it’s more than others are given. Catherine Zeta-Jones is lumbered with a poorly constructed sub-plot to create tension between Willis & Parker, that’s quickly tossed aside to make way for the overly complicated central storyline. Meanwhile, the talents of Lee Byung-hun are wasted by the film’s poorly edited action sequences. Worst of all is the fast & frantic finale, that’s hard to keep up with and uninteresting because of it.
Still, there’s sufficient here to keep fans of the first happy and enough to entice newcomers – a third installment has already been green-lit. If you’re only going to watch one film with Bruce Willis running around Moscow this year, make sure it’s this one.