Movie Review: RED 2

I have to say I quite enjoyed the first RED movie, where Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich played a bunch of old spies (classified as RED- Retired, Extremely Dangerous) who found themselves back in the firing line and on the run. It was a over the top action romp with a decent cast and a real sense of fun, so I decided I’d check out the follow up.

red2

The movie finds Frank Moses (Willis) trying to live the quiet life with his lady, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who seems a little bored by this. Back into their life comes Frank’s former colleague and friend, the deranged and paranoid Marvin (Malkovich) who warns him of imminent danger. Frank ignores these but soon finds himself being taken in and questioned about something called “Nightshade”.

The facility is attacked and Frank is confronted by Jack Horton (Neal McDonough) and his men who threaten Sarah’s safety and want to know the score. Frank escapes and he, Marvin and Sarah go on the lam. They find out that they’re being blamed for the Nightshade operation in a leaked file, the operation being that a nuclear bomb was smuggled into Russia during the Cold War piece by piece and assembled. The current whereabouts of the bomb being unknown.

Sarah, Frank and Marvin ready for action

Sarah, Frank and Marvin ready for action

Tracing the file’s origin to Paris, and suspecting the file to have come from The Frog (David Thewlis), an ex-spy who now sells secrets. They also receive a phone call from their old friend Victoria (Mirren) telling them that she has been tasked to kill them, as has an old enemy of Frank’s, Han (Lee Byung-Hun), the world’s best contract killer.

Han (Byung Hun) is on their trail

Han (Byung-hun) is on their trail

Travelling to Paris they go after the Frog, and run into a Russian agent, Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones), an old flame of Frank’s who still seems attracted to him and whom Marvin describes as “Frank’s Kryptonite”. This causes problems between Frank and Sarah, who becomes jealous of Katja’s smooth ways.

The gang follow the evidence to England, where they discover that the only people who will know where the bomb is in Russia is another old associate, Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), a genius scientist who’s been incarcerated for over 30 years in an asylum for the criminally insane.

The plan is to bust Bailey out, go to Moscow, recover the bomb and clear their names. Bailey however, seems to have lost his marbles. Will he remember where the bomb is? And how was a bomb of that power smuggled into the Russian capital unnoticed?

Can they clear their names and work out who’s stitched them up? And can they do it before Horton or Han catches up with them? Where do Victoria’s life? Who can they trust? And will Frank and Sarah’s relationship survive?

Similar to the first flick this is a cartoony, tongue in cheek romp filled with wise cracking and OTT action sequences. And as with the first film it’s jolly good fun.

Part of the enjoyment comes from the sense that the cast appear to be enjoying themselves, particularly Mirren, who takes to her role as the sophisticated assassin with easy charm and verve. Mirren is clearly having a ball cracking skulls and shooting guns, and it translates onto the screen. It also helps that even at 68 Mirren makes a believable agent- tough talking, no nonsense and extremely foxy.

Mirren- Still got it

Mirren- Still got it

I was also pleased to see the return of Brian Cox as the Russian official completely smitten with her, as the two have a kind of cute, sweet relationship going on.

It’s familiar territory for Willis, although Frank is a little more tight lipped than his usual wiseass heroes, with the character being a man of few words, which causes problems in his relationship with Sarah. While he throws out a couple of one liners, here Willis is more of a silent badass, blazing his way through the action sequences as the almost indestructible Frank.

This is the best I’ve seen Willis in a straightfoward action flick for a while, and he nails the character stuff too, the discomfort he has talking about his feelings to Sarah, his genuine concern and affection for her and best of all, how utterly disarmed and off his game the presence of Katja makes him.

The rest of the cast do their roles well enough- Malkovich does the crazed Marvin brilliantly and steals the show in places getting the lion’s share of the laughs, and as the adventure craving Sarah, Mary-Louise Parker is a delight, effortlessly charming and rather sweet. Parker manages to convey her enthusiasm and excitement, while still giving glimpses of how out of her depth and disconnected she is to the spy game. Also, her storyline with Frank is nicely handled, the two struggling with his past and her feeling controlled and molly coddled.

McDonough and Byung-hun make good villains, both convincingly ruthless and badass to be a genuine threat.

The two Welsh performers handle their roles well too, CZJ can do sexy easily enough and is extremely foxy here, hinting at a tougher edge but still attracted to Frank.

Katya (Zeta-Jones) causes problems for the group

Katja (Zeta-Jones) causes problems for the group

 

Anthony Hopkins plays the eccentric scientist broad and for laughs, but there are a few subtle little touches thrown in and he gets a few laughs.

The plot is simple enough, and while there are a couple of twists in the tale, none are completely staggering, although they are handled extremely well.

The action sequences are well done, and director Dean Parisot wisely keeps it light and relatively bloodless. The car chases are executed beautifully and he handles the climax to great effect. While he does borrow from the first film’s bag of tricks, namely the spinning cars and impossible moments (in the first movie Frank steps casually from a moving car, here he slides into the driving seat of a swerving car as though taking a seat on the couch) it does lack some of the cartoonish excess of it’s predecessor, which I see as a flaw.

All in all though it’s a big, entertaining popcorn movie that never takes itself too seriously and keeps the audience hooked with a lot of laughs and some fun set pieces.

Verdict: The cast seem to have had fun making it and this translates into a fun, entertaining flick for audiences. It might not match the original film’s gleefully ridiculous tone, but it’s still a wonderful tongue in cheek action comedy. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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