Red 2: Film Review

I enjoyed RED. It came out of nowhere as a real sleeper action movie, with no huge press machine behind it or anything, and really surprised me.

Bruce Willis played Frank Moses, a retired black ops man who is flagged as R.E.D (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) and has to go on the run to clear his name and stop the US Government from killing him. He meets a girl, the adorable Sarah (Mary Louise Parker), who has a normal boring life and relishes the chance to get involved with some drama. It was an old guy action picture on the surface, but it looked like it was a right laugh to be in and that really shone through.

RED 2, released on August 2nd, is still pretty fun. Frank and Sarah have settled down to a fairly quiet and peaceful life, but she becomes worried that she's stifling him somehow. There's no mission, no adventure, no one trying to kill them. That all changes when Frank's buddy Marvin (The ace John Malkovich) pops up convinced that he's being followed. 

Turns out he is too. A Cold War super weapon that went missing on Frank and Marvin's watch is said to have resurfaced, and every shady agency on the planet seems convinced that Frank knows where it is. The CIA hires Korean hitman Han (Lee Byung-hun) to kill Frank and Marvin, while good old tea drinking MI6 contract Victoria Winslow (Dame Helen Mirren) for the job. 

Han has a score to settle with Frank, while Victoria is conflicted about having to off a couple of her old friends. The movie takes place on the planet Earth mostly, with Frank's Crew flying hither and thither in a jet they steal from Han. They go to Paris, London, Russia and London again, shooting things and being cool. 

The RED franchise, and this is a franchise now, is made for cameo type appearances. The first one had the late Ernest Borgnine as well as Brian Cox and Richard Dreyfuss. This one has Catherine Zeta-Jones, looking the same yet somehow older, as Russian counter-intelligence agent Katya, plus David Thewlis and Sir Anthony Hopkins, but it just isn't the same.

In the first movie everyone was having fun. In this one they're just making a movie, and that really translates. The big stunts, the cool moments and the daft humour is all but lost in favour of dead-eyed gunplay and title cards with the names of places on them. There are still some funny moments, mostly from the wide-eyed innocent performence of Mary Louise Parker and everyone giving Frank relationship advice, but the heart's been taken out of it somewhere.

In RED it was like old friends at a party. RED 2 is old friends back at work.

New director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest, Curb Your Enthusiasm) seems to have struggled with juggling comedy, action and romance all at once and so never quite gets the rhythm of it all. The script by returning writers Erich and Jon Hoeber is just trying to hit the beats of the first one and bouncing off instead of landing. The device of having former ally Victoria now become a dangerous enemy is interesting, but dispensed with far too quickly and casually, and someone needs to alert the industry that simply adding a Kung Fu guy doesn't automatically raise the stakes.

All in all RED 2 is not a bad movie. I was entertained throughout, but it's a smudged copy of the original with no spark to drive it.

RED 2 is in cinemas August 2nd

3 out of 5

Words by Gazz Wood

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