Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Neal McDonaugh, David Thewlis, Brian Cox
PG-13 for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material.
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Three years ago, audiences were introduced to a group of aging secret service agents whose retirement is threatened by a corrupt government attempting to kill them. With most of the group back together for this second go-around, we fall into an entertaining, if all-too-familiar formula of action comedy.
RED 2 starts up shortly after Frank (Bruce Willis) and Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) have settled into domestic life together. He wants nothing more than to live quietly and in peace while she craves the excitement and adventure their prior-film encounters brought to her. His best friend Marvin (John Malkovich) arrives to warn Frank about a memo leaked online that threatens to expose them as part of a Cold War-era plot to smuggle a nuclear weapon into Russia. As defense contractor Jack Horton (Neal McDonaugh) tries to extra more details out of Frank and his cohorts, a zig-zagging adventure through a half-dozen countries begins.
Any number of comedy tropes find their way into RED 2, the acronym referring to the case file designation “Retired. Extramely Dangerous,” from Sarah’s “fish out of water” haphazardness to Frank’s “they keep draging me back in” frustrations. Using familiar styles helps engage the audience quickly and get them laughing with little effort, all while laying out a complicated, if predictable espionage thriller. Galaxy Quest director Dean Parisot takes over for original director Robert Schwentke, who coincidentally opened new film R.I.P.D. on the same weekend, and manages to bring a bit more humanity out of the characters. They remain familiar and well-worn caricatures, but that’s precisely what we hope for and expect out of this franchise.
Willis has proven many times to be adept at both action films and comedies while blending both with little effort. RED 2 continues to showcase his best abilities, ones that have been too frequently abused in other action films in his recent career. Parker is always engaging while Malkovich keeps his zaniness in check long enough to make a much more relatable and compelling figure this time around. McDonaugh has failed to expand on his growing roster of bad guys while Brian Cox has a brief, but memorable return to the franchise. Yet, it’s Helen Mirren as the MI6 assassin who wrings out the most and best laughs from the materials, showcasing her deft abilities. She proves she is one of the finest actresses working today and her sheer joy and excitement comes through every minute.
Making her first appearance in the franchise is Catherine Zeta-Jones as an old paramour of Frank’s, a Russian agent whose devotion to country over her personal life got in the way of their potential relationship. She has changed little and arrives merely to throw a wrench into his burgeoning relationship with Sarah whose frustration with that part of his life grows more severe as he fails to take her for granted. Anthony Hopkins plays the brilliant scientist whose incarceration in an insane asylum injects his own brand of elfin humor into the film, making some zany decisions that ultimately lead to other twists that only an actor of Hopkins calibre could have pulled off successfully.
There are certain staples of the summer box office whose limited quality have little bearing on their success. RED 2 is one of the better films of this ilk, generating genuine laughs and providing boundless opportunities for amusement in a sea of serious and not-so-serious productions that forget one of the most important elements to making a great summer movie. They just aren’t fun. RED 2 is.
July 26, 2013