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.
Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Red 2 is released on 2nd August 2013