The retirees of ‘RED 2’ provide chuckles and thrills

July 25, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 25, 2013

RED 2 is an enjoyable but superficial romp that finally answers this inessential question: If you can’t have fun with the prospect of millions of innocent people being incinerated by a nuclear terrorist, what can you have fun with?

Director Dean Parisot’s sequel centers on retired/extremely dangerous — RED, get it?! — American secret agent Frank Moses. He finds himself unwillingly dragged out of a quiet retirement, along with his action-hungry girlfriend, Sarah, when officials suddenly begin asking questions about one Operation Nightshade. The pair join with Moses’ eccentric former partner, Marvin, to figure out why a botched long-ago operation in Russia has become newly relevant.

The fast-paced RED 2 sends the group to Paris, London and Moscow as they go about unraveling the mystery. Along the way, they tangle with Jack Horton, a murderous American officer who’s determined to keep Nightshade buried; Katja, a Russian frenemy whose old romance with Moses fuels an intense jealousy in Sarah; a retired British agent named Victoria who has been hired by MI-6 to kill her two former colleagues and friends; and Han Cho Bai, a deadly Korean mercenary with a grudge against Moses whom the Americans hire to assassinate Moses and Marvin.

Needless to say, the narrative involves gun battles, car chases, hand-to-hand combat, poison gas and a ticking nuclear McGuffin. Oh — and there’s also a brilliant scientist named Bailey who has to be broken out of a maximum-security insane asylum. For comic relief, various characters offer Moses and Sarah advice on how to spice up their relationship.

The movie’s pace is sprightly, its comic banter is crisp and the story (co-written by Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber) is just twisty enough to be engaging without engendering confusion. The fights are all well-staged and largely bloodless; indeed, RED 2 is the kind of film where murder is repeatedly played for laughs. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, the movie franchise is based on a 2003 comic book mini-series; I have neither read that mini-series nor seen the original RED movie, which was released in 2010.)

Be that as it may, RED 2 is definitely a solid entry in the action-comedy genre. The cast has charisma to burn, particularly Bruce Willis as the rugged but not-quite-infallible Moses and Helen Mirren as the stylish and deadly Victoria. Mary-Louise Parker does well as Sarah, whose enthusiasm for danger is initially played for laughs, and Anthony Hopkins’ performance as the addled Bailey puts an interesting spin on his infamous Hannibal Lecter character. John Malkovich, who could play Marvin in his sleep, imbues the character with the right amount of eccentricity and cunning, and Neal McDonough portrays Horton as a manicured menace.

The movie was fun enough that I’ll probably seek out the original RED movie. And when the next sequel is released, I’ll be willing to give it a shot.

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