Cinema Review: Red 2

20130717171933red_2_3

DIR: Dean Parisot  WRI: Katie Dippold  PRO: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian  DOP: Robert Yeoman  ED: Brent White, Jay Deuby  CAST: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins

Directed by Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest, Fun with Dick and Jane), this is the follow up to 2010’s Red  based on Warren Ellis’ comic of the same name.

Red 2 takes place a few months after the events of Red. Retired C.I.A. operative Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is living happily ever after with the love of his life Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) and on the surface everything seems perfect. Unfortunately, and unaware to Frank, their relationship is feeling the strain of stagnation. While buying in bulk Frank is confronted by his best friend Marvin (John Malkovich) with a portent of doom. “They” are coming for Marvin, and Frank will certainly be next. After faking his own death Marvin’s suspicions are confirmed. It transpires that someone has leaked a document on to the internet claiming that Frank and Marvin took part in a covert, cold war plot to smuggle a new type of nuclear weapon, designed by Dr Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) into Moscow. Now they are flagged as nuclear terrorists and they are wanted by both the C.I.A. and MI6, among others. Their old friend, Victoria (Helen Mirren) as well as an enemy from Frank’s past, Han Cho Bai (Byung-Hun Lee) have both been hired to kill the pair as well as Sarah. Frank, Sarah and Marvin must embark on a globe-trotting quest for, first information then resolution, all while Frank and Sarah’s relationship suffers the strain of Frank’s ex Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones) resurfacing and being integral to plot that is afoot.

The immediate problem with this second instalment is that it’s almost instantly forgettable. The story is too complex for the enjoyable brand of action comedy the plot is trying to achieve. The constant flitting from London to America to Russia to Paris and back again make the story feel episodic and the events unrelated. It all ties up almost too neatly in the end but it’s hard not to wonder where any of it is going while the story is unfolding in front of you. It may be that the original comic saw Frank Moses die at the end of the story but the current screenplay lacks the same drive and constant goal for which everyone is striving that lent the original Red  a sense of purpose.

Largely the action feels slow and flat, with the exception of the scenes involving Byung-Hun Lee. His impressive skill and martial arts background make for the most explosive and enjoyable fight scenes of the film. He also does an astounding job of playing a hired assassin with a personal vendetta. He spends most of the film motivated more by the theft of his private jet than by the contract he is trying to fulfil. The older cast members and returning characters know their roles and play them well. Willis is the tough-guy looking out for the girl, Malkovich is paranoid, Hopkins is crazy, Mirren is elegant even in moments of extreme violence and Parker is a fish out of water who desperately wants to be a part of the action. Unfortunately this sort of paint-by-numbers rehashing of the characters makes the few arcs there are in the film seem false.

Technically Red 2 has all the elements to be just as good as the first, great cast, action, humour, story, but somehow they don’t seem to gel as well this time around. It is very easy to enjoy but equally difficult to remember why.

 

 

Paddy Delaney

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details) 

115 mins
Red 2 is released on 2nd August 2013

Red 2  – Official Website

Share

Changeling

Changeling
Changeling

DIR: Clint Eastwood • WRI: J. Michael Straczynski • PRO: Clint Eastwood, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Robert Lorenz • DOP: Tom Stern • ED: Joel Cox, Gary Roach • DES: James J. Murakami • CAST: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Colm Feore

Angelina Jolie stars in Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial masterpiece, Changeling, as Christine Collins, a single mother in 1920s Los Angeles whose son goes missing. A corrupt, misogynistic police department answers her hopeful prayers by returning to her a boy they claim to be her son. Fishing for much needed praise from hovering press agents, the police captain is momentarily able to silence Christine’s protest that this boy is, in fact, not her missing son. Based on a true story, Christine’s struggle to find her missing boy lands her smack in the middle of a battle between her drive to be reunited with her family and the police departments’ nefarious efforts to silence her before the embarrassing truth of their mistake can come to light. Jolie’s brilliantly emotive performance turns this drama-cum-thriller into an Oscar®-worthy contribution to ‘stranger than fiction’ historical cinema.

Harkening back to Hollywood’s golden age of epic melodramas, untouchable starlets and the American auteur, Eastwood creates a visual atmosphere that is both fresh and antique. Even as the film opens, the old black and white Universal Studios symbol from the 1930s greets the viewer, followed by an intriguing slow pan over neighbourhood streets. Slow moving model-T’s and the cable cars of LA line the tree shrouded roadway as soft colour begins to filter in giving the mood of the film a soft Technicolor glow. Together with the sweetness of old, Eastwood remains a recognizably styled filmmaker, marking his work with a rawness too contemporary to be mistaken for classic Hollywood.

Eastwood is known for his ‘actor first’ directorial perspective, directing films as he would want to be directed if he were the actor. Often, scenes are unrehearsed and wrapped in one take. The result of this method is a dynamic realness and humanity perhaps lost on over perfected productions.

In the Changeling, Jolie bares her very soul in the unguarded and honest way typical of her performance style but also of Eastwood’s methods. Jolie, who would already be considered American royalty, much like Hollywood starlets of yesteryear, is postured through out the film in facial close-ups, much like her royal predecessors. Lit like a visual song that only cinema can seem to capture, Jolie’s face tells the story of Christine Collins’ strength, suffering and hope. While in the golden age of cinema, a starlet needed to be fresh and youthful, Eastwood is more interested in gritty reality rather than glossy, imposed beautification. Jolie appears haggard, tired and imperfect as she suffers, though this is not exaggerated either.

From Unforgiven to Million Dollar Baby, Eastwood has found compelling stories of feminine inequality more than just a brave subtext. Eastwood’s women are allegories for rebellion against the expected roles that women have played or been forced to play in an unequal and unjust past. Changeling is a tribute to an obscure and forgotten heroine who brought down a corrupt infrastructure by refusing to accept the label of a foolish, emotional woman. Much like Eastwood’s directorial style, the truth of Christine Collins is much more pertinent than anything that could have been imagined.

Share