RED or 'Retired Extremely Dangerous' (loosely based on the DC comic of the same name) was a surprisingly fun comic book adaption that finally roped off an over 55 section in the action genre. Unfortunately RED 2 suffers through protagonist Bruce Willis' lack of commitment to the performance that becomes so apparent that his seething 'I don't give a f*ck' attitude putrefies the film.
In the wake of what they though would be their 'last hurrah' Frank (Willis) and Marvin (John Malkovich) [and Frank's new squeeze Sarah - Mary-Louise Parker] are dragged back into the fray to recover a missing nuclear weapon as the ghosts 'failed mission past' come back to haunt them.
The failure of this rests upon the shoulders of Willis. While all of his co-stars are out to infuse this 'grey power' espionage smack-down with the lightness that it deserves, Willis sent one of his cybernetic friends from THE SURROGATES to perform on his behalf. Autopilot doesn't cover it. If South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone gave Willis the Saddam Hussain cut-out puppetry treatment, and inserted him into RED 2, there would have articulated more emotions that he's able to conjure in this performance. It's become more apparent that the real protagonist of the original RED wasn't Willis, Malkovich or Louise-Parker it was Karl Urban's FBI agent. He was ordered (after another frame up no less) to hunt down this group of what he assumed would be senior citizens and routinely had his ass handed to him. Watching him dispatch wave after wave of agents against Willis, Malkovich, Mirren, Cox and Freeman and this veteran crew cackle though their repeated failures. Urban's character experiences the emotional 'change' and the phenomenal cast get to support and it is precisely what's missing in RED 2.
Malkovich is just the perfect 'whacko.' He's that wonderfully conspiratorial and casually violent, 'loony tune' of a character that every time you see his face you chuckle. Byung-hun Lee's assassin Han, despite being the least conspicuous contract killer of all time, is likeable, looks shredded and takes to the action with the necessary vigour. This reviewer could watch Helen Mirren playing a machine gun wielding bad-ass forever. Not only does she have a wonderful scene taking the piss out of her portrayals of the Queen, she's tonally and comedically perfect as Victoria.
New director Dean Parisot and writers Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber feel more interested in stamping his characters passports and clever transitions/establishing shots of new locations than getting any of the characters to new ground. Moving their characters geographically is not the same as emotion trajectory. The writing and the fun comes when they allow their characters to pause and interact and Parisot has a to show his directorial flair in the moments of people underestimating the various RED operatives.
RED 2's support cast (including the new additions) are punching hard for this sequel to be as fun as the original; however the diluted globetrotting and Willis' clear 'pay-check' performance make you wish they'd retired this series after the original.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Dean Parisot Written by: Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee and Catherine Zeta Jones.