RED 2 (PG-13)
Red 2, A.K.A. Retired Extremely Dangerous returns to us from the world of DC Comics for another fast-paced romp with the killer retirees. Having seen the first installment of this sleeper hit, I was ready with that same half-baked expectation we all have when we hear the word 'sequel'. Nevertheless, I geared up for another frolic with Willis and the gang and was laughing within the first minutes of the film. This action/comedy was a who’s-who of Oscar winners and what fun it was to see these Hollywood heavies playing a lighter tune on the big screen. (Seriously, retirement never looks this good). This time, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Mary-Louise Parker are joined by Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and rising Korean actor Byune-hun Lee (GI Joe), which only escalated the action and the fun.
In case you haven’t seen first movie, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is a former black–ops agent, once one of the best in the world, who is simply trying to enjoy his retirement, mind his girlfriend, and mind his own business. But, it’s a short-lived fantasy since trouble finds Frank like a heat-seeking missile. This time trouble comes looking for him in the form of a world-class assassin, Han Cho Bai, played with lethal skill by Lee.
Frank Moses has one true ace left in his retirement deck – a paranoid, schizophrenic best friend in the form of fellow ex-operative Marvin, (John Malkovich) who is a few fruit loops short of a full bowl. His arrival is just in time to prep Moses for the ‘coming attractions’. Marvin has spent too much time visiting exclusive government interrogation ‘spas’. He lost his grip on normalcy years before, but his paranoiac sense for impending danger and strategic brilliance is the life support system for Frank’s now re-assembled team. Maybe it’s just me, but I just love to watch Malkovich play a wacko who looks like an idiot, but is deceivingly sharp. Once again he cleverly steels scenes from Willis (not easy to do) with a deadpan tongue-in-cheek humor reigning superbly in one comedic sneak attack after another.
As it turns out Malkovich wasn't the only screwball in the story as marvelously played by Hopkins as the genius inventor of a lethal bomb - the envy of clamoring world powers with the ability to produce mass destruction. It is always a treat to watch Hopkins in action in any story. He rules in an elite class of actors who can play anything, and did not disappoint as the delightfully whacked scientist rediscovering life after 30 years of incarceration in the nut house.
Helen Mirren returns as the hard boiled retired agent Victoria, who’s so jaded that killing, has become occupational therapy for keeping boredom at bay. I've been a fan of Mirren’s for years having watched her Academy Award winning role in “Queen” and more recently, as the long-suffering spouse to Hopkins in “Hitchcock.” (Who knew the sixty-something actress could play an action hero?) But she made a believer out of me, and carried the torch for kick-ass chicks everywhere with some screen moments worthy of Uma Thurman with an acerbic comedic twist. At one point I laughed so loudly I feared ejection from the theater.
Byune-hun Lee sizzles as the assassin hired to take out Frank Moses. Let me tell you that Lee says more with one look than most villains can pull off with an entire script. There’s no doubt the man can fight, but trust me - he doesn't need to. The ever ravishing Catherine Zeta-Jones sashayed her way between scenes with silky smoothness as a Russian operative with an eye for Moses, and was the perfect foil for Mary-Louise Parker’s refreshing naivete as the adventure seeking girlfriend. Popular British actor, David Thewlis (Harry Potter) rounded out the story as the nefarious information dealer known as the Frog.
Recently, while cruising some news sites I was sorry to read that Bruce Willis was tired of playing action heroes. I get it – it’s the old typecasting box into which Hollywood locks an actor who’s repeatedly good in a certain type of role. But personally speaking, I’m not tired of seeing Willis play those roles (neither is his average box-office take). Making a few million dollars to wave a gun around, and spurt a few smart-aleck lines isn't a bad way to make a living and Willis does it with his own unique branding. But I digress… Willis showed us again the qualities that made him one of the reigning kings of action movies and he’s still one of the few that can carry an action film with a good 2 hour entertainment value.
Red 2 was a boatload of fun to watch, and a couple of the action scenes made me long for an instant replay or at least a Matrix moment so I could see the spectacle in full super slow motion. It was one of those rare combinations where action and comedy actually met without fatal collision. If you are looking for straight-up hardcore action, this is not the film for you, but if you enjoy some gun-slinging, a decent story loaded with a pile of eccentric quirks for characters, then Red 2 might be calling your name. The story-line even threw us a few unexpected twists that are always entertaining in a genre overflowing with predictable endings. I am usually one of the first soothsayers of sequels which are mostly disappointing, but director, Dean Parisot got this one right and went one better than the first film leaving me with an appetite for more…okay just one more. After all, there's something so tidy about the term "film trilogy". Having said that, now where's my AARP card?
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