Very cute, very violent. Now, those are four words you don’t usually see strung together in a movie review. But they perfectly describe “Red 2.” It’s a cracking good sequel to the 2010 action comedy about former government agents who are now “RED,” or “retired, extremely dangerous.” And it does exactly what a film like this is supposed to do.
It picks up, at some indeterminate time after the original, and follows the continuing adventures of a group of people we really liked the first time around. They’re pushed off into a new story, but the script switches into comfort mode by getting them to do some of the same quirky things they did before. Yet there’s enough freshness here to make us hope there’ll be a third entry somewhere down the road.
But back to that cute and violent business, which is introduced, in tandem, at the get-go. Say hello, again, to tough-as-nails Frank and innocent little Sarah (Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker), now a lovey-dovey couple who have become real homebodies. Well, at least he has. Frank is thrilled to have his killing days behind him. But Sarah might be missing some of that excitement she tasted when she first met Frank. Before the film has a chance of turning saccharine, it reintroduces Marvin (John Malkovich), Frank’s crazy coot of an old pal, who is a brilliant marksman but is still feeling the effects some long-ago and extensive government-sponsored LSD experiments done to him.
Cue the explosions, cue the gunfire, then introduce a plot that makes the government look even worse when our heroes are labeled terrorists who must be hunted down. But don’t let the audience forget, even when gun-crazy Brit MI6 agent Victoria (Helen Mirren) and treacherous Korean hitman Han (Byung-hun Lee, new to the franchise) are hired to do the hunting, that throughout it all, Frank and Sarah are crazy over each other. This is put to the test a bit when Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a Russian agent and old flame of Frank’s, enters the picture. But that character, along with Zeta-Jones’ flat acting, takes up too much air and space in what would otherwise have been a tighter movie.
The film is actually a little more complicated than it needs to be. The central premise involves a decades-old weapon that at one time could have done major damage to the world and, it turns out, still can. Dubbed Project Nightshade, and created by a genius who was either good or evil, the weapon has gone missing, and a whole lot of people, from all different corners of the planet, are searching for it.
In a film of this sort, that kind of plotting also means that everyone is trying to kill everyone else, with Frank, Sarah, and Marvin most often in others’ crosshairs. But the script never strays far from leaning on its comic edge. Despite the danger, there are plenty of wisecracks, along with some outright loopy comedy from the often confused-looking Marvin. While he remains the film’s major comic relief, Parker is spot-on in lightening things up just by displaying her misplaced excitement and zeal when, for instance, she gets her hands on a gun and doesn’t really know what to do with it.
Any fashionistas in the audience will enjoy the fact that practically everyone in the film (with the exception of Marvin) is stylishly dressed, and fans of actors who know how to overdo things in exactly the right way will enjoy the spirited, highly energetic performance by Anthony Hopkins as Bailey (especially when he utters the oh-so-British phrase “Jolly good” twice!).
There are plot twists galore, many of which get very creative late in the film, and though the story gets overcomplicated, the direction is so fluid, it’s quite easy to take it all in.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.
Written by Jon Hoeber and Eric Hoeber; directed by Dean Parisot
With Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins