Directed by: Dean Parisot
Cast: Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee
Running Time: 1 hr 47 mins
Release Date: July 19, 2013
PLOT: Frank (Willis), his wife (Parker), and his also ex-CIA buddy Marvin (Malkovich) seek out information on a missing weapon of mass destruction, while being tailed by assassins.
WHO’S IT FOR? Did you just find a random five-dollar bill on the street? Red 2 is a pretty decent way to put that find to use. If your air conditioner is broken, spending two hours with this film to soak up A/C has certainly seen more unjust moments.
The original RED snuck up on me with a sleeper hold, its dull action rendering me unconscious and likely drooling by the time Morgan Freeman disappeared from the story (I literally woke up, and he was gone). But regardless of these established low expectations, Red 2 is an assuredly non-toxic breeze during a movie season humid with films looking to provide the same potent amount of mindless entertainment. It’s another party from Willis and his easy-going action nostalgia, a gag in itself that still hasn’t reached the point of offensiveness. Aside from its bizarre international violence, RED 2 is a largely imperfect but harmless way to occupy two hours.
Without insulting his audience, Willis tunes into the cool John McClane mannerisms of the last two Die Hard movies, as if RED 2 was a second epilogue to the entire Die Hard franchise. While we can be thankful his character’s attribute of being domesticated isn’t expanded on beyond his first scene, one can easily chalk up this action movie as another automatic role for Wills. His initial action moment (involving tactfully taking out a group of soldiers one by one) has a few amusing sparks, but he is best here when he is a lunkhead punchline, especially concerning his on-screen relationship with Mary Louise Parker and her frustration at his past with a Russian spy played by Catherine Zeta-Jones.
That being said, RED 2 gets a share of its energy from Willis’ immediate on-screen counterparts, Parker and John Malkovich, who keep the comedy-action (not the other way around) moving even if the jokes aren’t that funny. Parker is a little delightful as a giddy onlooker to her husband’s craziness, her outsider perspective making for a chuckle or two or three when she interacts with the numerous villains from the stance of an arguably more regular human being, and not a person desensitized to killing, etc.
With his serious roles showing on his face (specifically In the Line of Fire), Malkovich shows that his intensity does transition well to goofy perspective. Instead of playing a serious nut he plays a silly nut, making for one of the movie’s more exclusive tidbits. Here’s hoping this type of clowning doesn’t eventually find its way into an Adam Sandler movie, although with only a touch more of insanity, such could easily be the case.
Other casting choices do not succeed with the movie’s simple but direct requirements. Helen Mirren’s appearance as a violent older woman often feels like pandering to the movie’s general cause of showing non-young people blow stuff up, especially in cheesy moments that make the movie’s flat joke all the more like a blunt object to the head. The same can be said with Anthony Hopkins’ work, which is cheap clowning at best. Perhaps he should have taken a few pointers from Malkovich on the issue.
The hardest worker here in RED 2 is Byung-hun Lee, who most recently played ninja Storm Shadow again in sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation. His muscly physique is shown off during his own introduction and then utilized for a couple of following captivating martial arts scenes, Lee provides the movie its more technically-accomplished thrills. Especially in a fight scene in a shop opposite Willis, Lee makes the more famous yet less athletic star appear like an executive producer with a walk-on role at best.
Aside from its more welcome members on its guest list, RED 2 stays greased up with its piling of action moments, including the onslaught of a million bullets being fired at Willis and Malkovich, a multi-car chase through Paris, a well-choreographed (and efficiently shot) martial arts display from Lee, and others. Slow motion proves to be the cheesiest visual effect on director Dean Parisot’s palette (especially with how phony certain images look), but like the rest of this beast, RED 2 chugs along as action occupied with putting comic relief first.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10