There was nothing about 2010’s fun but completely forgettable action comedy RED that demanded a sequel. In fact, the comic book upon which it was based only lasted three issues so needed expanding to even become one feature length film. But it made money, so here we are; RED 2.
The plot this time round is really quite similar to the last one, Bruce Willis’s retired CIA agent Frank Moses is trying to enjoy a quiet life, now with his civilian girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker), but a variety of assassins are out to kill him and his former partner Marvin (John Malkovich) , relating to a security job they did back in the eighties. The McGuffin is a powerful nuclear-type weapon that went missing decades prior, so off they set on a globe-trotting adventure that finds them bumping into a number of entertaining characters.
Many of the surprisingly impressive cast from the first film return; Willis obviously, looking more upbeat that he usually does these days, Parker, who’s arguably the lead, yearns for excitement and gets a lot more to do. Helen Mirren and Malkovich are clearly having an absolute blast repeating their roles. A good number of new faces also turn up, Neal McDonough (Band of Brothers, Captain America) effectively plays the big government bad guy, while Anthony Hopkins plays an absent-minded British scientist and his one-time on screen daughter Catherine Zeta-Jones is a slinky Russian assassin. It’s also great to see a good role given to Korean star Lee Byung-hun (I Saw the Devil), paying top international assassin Han, he’s given a particularly memorable introduction (not to mention a nude scene more gratuitous than the recent controversial one from Star Trek Into Darkness).
Director Dean Parisot (of the excellent Galaxy Quest and the awful Fun with Dick and Jane) keeps the thing moving along at a nimble pace, jumping from country to country, inserting plenty of shootouts, fights, chases, and plot twists, while always maintaining a light-hearted, humorous tone. Red 2 is not a particularly smart film, nor is it trying to be. There are plenty of very silly moments, for example, Han is repeatedly described, and effectively introduced as ‘the world’s greatest assassin’ yet can’t even seem to injure a couple of pensioners despite possessing vastly superior firepower. The general good nature of the film makes it reasonably easy to look past such things though, and far more of the jokes hit than miss.
RED 2 is a film in which everyone involved appears to be having a great time, and successfully manages to shift some of that feeling to the audience. There’s nothing original to be found in this studio sequel, but if you’re looking for a fun way to pass a couple of hours, you could do a lot worse.