Director: Dean Parisot
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Lee Byung-hun
Following the events in the first film, we pick up with Frank (Bruce Willis) and Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) in a bit of a rut. Lacking the excitement that brought them together and their relationship stalled, they get an unexpected visitor in Marvin (John Malkovich) who warns them that they are targets of national interest. In an effort to discover why they are being marked for execution, they enlist the help of returning associates Victoria (Helen Mirren) and Boris (Brian Cox) and new arrivals Katya (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Edward (Anthony Hopkins). Dodging military and the dogged pursuit of a special agent (Neal McDonough) and a contract killer with a vendetta (Lee Byung Hun), Frank and company come out of retirement once again to possibly save the world.
Taking over the reins in the director’s chair is Dean Parisot who hopes to build on the surprise success of the first film. Taking a similar approach to the action, this film will feel very familiar to fans of the first film. With beats and cues lifted directly from the first RED, the proceedings feel predictable and stale. Lacking a lot of the energy in the previous installment, this average sequel does boast more globe-trotting and seemingly large action set pieces, but seems to be missing the humor and heart that made the first film such a sleeper hit. Of note was the decision to focus more heavily on the origin of the film as a comic book. Featuring comic book style wipes and even the prominent DC Comics logo at the beginning, this film seems to relish in its pedigree much moreso than the previous movie.
The returning cast offers more of the same, and I was disappointed that Malkovich didn’t get to have as many fun moments; his character is the breakout favorite amongst many viewers. He dials it back a bit but still offers the occasional bit of sardonic wisdom that should draw a few chuckles. I was happy to see Brian Cox back in the film; he was never featured in promotional trailers, but he is woefully underused. Newcomers to the franchise: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, and Lee Byung Hun offer solid turns; Zeta-Jones’ catty Katya brings up some amusing scenes between she and Parker when it is revealed that Katya has a history with Frank Moses. Hopkins’ Edward Bailey is less impressive and he does his best John Hurt in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull impression. He’s a talented actor no doubt, but this role is hardly challenging material. Lee Byung Hun, a personal favorite, kicks all sorts of butt in the film though the penultimate confrontation between he and Willis is more than a little anticlimactic and he is forced to deliver a terrible fortune cookie-esque bit that had me rolling my eyes. The cast all handle their action well, though there are less exclamation point moments than I would have wanted. Lacking the memorable moments probably hurts the film more than it should, and it is difficult to recall scenes even a few hours after viewing.
While not a terrible film, RED 2 suffers from a severe lack of urgency and missed opportunities. Still mildly entertaining, it should satisfy most fans of the original but the predictability and ‘been there, seen that’ flow of the film may turn off viewers looking for more of a challenging sequel.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: RED, The Losers, and The Italian Job