Mark Reviews Movies



2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Dean Parisot

Cast: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material)

Running Time: 1:56

Release Date: 7/19/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 18, 2013

RED 2 is neither an improvement nor a significant step down; the movie is, like its predecessor, completely ordinary and mediocre in a middle-of-the-road sort of way. It does not promise much, and it does not deliver much, either. If there's any major difference in the movie's approach compared to the first one, it's that the actors, who fit into their roles so perfectly the last time around (and still do, in theory), are given even less to do in their respective roles. They were playing characters who were barely more than archetypes the last time; this time, well, they're barely archetypes.

What's missing here is the first movie's sense that these actors could break free of the mold of their characters at any moment—that they might do something unexpected. The cast felt as if it was restraining itself before, but now these actors appear to be going through the motions, content simply to be participants in a globe-trotting plot about espionage gone wrong, various and dangerous government agencies from around the world attempting to cover up their mistakes with extreme prejudice, and, of course, the possibility of a weapon of mass destruction getting into the wrong hands and setting off a global catastrophe. If there's one thing a person doesn't want to be accused of doing when faced with such hurdles, it would be of simply going through the motions.

The movie picks up with Frank (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA operative, at some point after his last adventure. He now leads a domesticated life of shopping with and planning to cook dinner for his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who's visibly bored by the new routine of their lives.

Their shopping is interrupted when Marvin (John Malkovich), one of Frank's old acquaintances from his former line of work, appears and tries to convince the two to join him on a mission. Sarah, who's a bit of adrenaline junkie, wants to, but Frank, who's become very protective of Sarah, refuses. In the parking lot, Marvin's car explodes, and Frank decides that he and Sarah need to go into hiding (but not before attending Marvin's funeral and stabbing the apparent corpse with a pin to test if he's actually dead).

Before that can happen, Frank is taken into custody and brought into a top-secret facility where they ask him about an old mission from the Cold War in which he participated involving a top-secret bomb (Lots of things are "top secret" here) under the Kremlin. The file has gone public on the Internet, and it does not make the United States government look good. After all, the bomb has been missing for decades.

Frank escapes after taking out a group of government "clean-up" operatives, led by the merciless Horton (Neal McDonough), that have come to, well, clean up the mess. He, Sarah, and Marvin, who really was faking, start out on a mission to find the bomb before any bad guys can get their hands on it.

Other characters, like Helen Mirren's remorseless assassin Victoria and Brian Cox' former Russian agent Ivan, return (She's been assigned by MI6 to kill her old friends; he has a foot fetish), and others, like Byung-hun Lee's world-class assassin Han and Catherine Zeta-Jones' ex-KGB agent (without a trace of a Russian dialect) Katja turn up for the first time (He's been hired by Horton to kill the trio; she's Frank's "kryptonite"). Rounding out the new cast members are David Thewlis as a wine connoisseur and information dealer known only as "the Frog" and Anthony Hopkins as a long-believed-dead scientist who's been clandestinely imprisoned in a psychiatric war for decades named Bailey.

We've already become accustomed to the characters we already know, and screenwriters Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber (working off the characters from the comic book series by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner) offer nothing new for these characters to do (Only Sarah's obsession with taking part in the action—and inevitably kissing men instead of hurting or killing them—is close to a distinct trait from any of the established characters). Even Marvin, the loose cannon of the last movie, seems relatively sane here, giving Frank relationship advice and occasionally blowing up something or other. Whatever sense of time catching up with these retirees, which gave a few scenes in the first movie some unexpected heart, have been sidelined in favor of character spouting plot information and action sequences that feel more compulsory than exciting.

Without the feeling of familiarity, the new characters work better, primarily because, once again, the casting is spot-on (Hopkins is playfully daffy until he reveals his own top-secret secrets, and Lee is a physical force with icy resolve). The new blood, though, is a partial remedy to the things that ail this sequel—a feeling of duplication and routine.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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