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The original RED did what the first Expendables failed to do. It took a bunch of old people and successfully crafted a tongue-in-cheek action film around them. It had just the right balance between action and humour, serving up a film that was a lot of fun to be around. I'm happy to report that the sequel does more of the same.
After trying to settle down and live a normal life with Sarah (whom he met in the first film), ex-CIA man Frank Moses finds himself on the run when he and his friend Marvin are accused of knowing where to find a deadly weapon that the rest of the world wants. Worse still, both MI6 and the CIA have taken out a contract on him; one with an old enemy, the other with an old friend and ally.
RED 2 has been criticised in some quarters for doing nothing new. It sticks closely to the now tried and tested formula for spy thrillers. It features characters who, to some extent or another are loners with "a very particular set of skills". The action takes places in a number of locations across the world and the mission is to prevent some madman from blowing up the world. For what it's worth, such accusations are perfectly true.
This is both RED 2's blessing and its curse. Fans argue that it's good because it doesn't try to alter the formula that made the first film such an enjoyable romp. It simply takes the bits that worked and pretty much repeats them in a different context. On the other hand, critics argue that it's bad because it doesn't try to alter the formula from the first film. It simply takes the bits that worked and pretty much repeats them in a different context. See what I'm saying there? It might be a little trite, but it really does boil down to this: if you enjoyed RED, you'll have a blast with the sequel. If you thought it was little more than a vanity project for over-priced has-beens... well, let's just say that the sequel doesn't make much of an effort to try to win you over.
Essentially, RED 2 is a very silly action film. The plot is an irrelevance, merely there to provide a (vague) justification for all the fights, explosions, car chases and globe-trotting. It's not big and it's certainly not clever. If it were at high school, it would be the naughty boy sitting at the back of the class letting off stink bombs and giggling. However it does remember something that all too many Hollywood films forget: how to be FUN. From its stupid opening ("Frank, you haven't killed anyone in six months"...) to the daft ending, it's a blast. It knows it's nothing more than a silly little thing to kill a couple of hours and make the audience go home with a big daft grin on their face. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that in my book.
The cast truly is one to die for, packed with audience-friendly, star-studded names. There are so many big names in this film that it was always a worry that some would get lost or reduced to mere cameos. In fact, with just 2 exceptions, the film is even-handed enough to give all the big names their little moment in the sun. It's clear from the film that all the cast are having blast. They are a likeable bunch with obvious chemistry between them and that rubs off on the audience who can't help but enjoy themselves.
For someone who made his name as the wise-cracking John McLane, it seems odd to see Bruce Willis (as Frank Moses) essentially playing the straight man. Although he gets his moments, he is mostly saddled with moving the plot forward (and is the closest thing to a "proper" character in the whole film). Still, Brucie is as good as ever, and shows that whether it's firing a gun, smirking or chucking out a one-liner, he's still got it.
John Malkovich is once again priceless as the slightly unhinged Marvin who sees the world in a very different way from everyone else, whilst Helen Mirren is once again on excellent form, vamping it up as the glamorous, but deadly Victoria.
It's good to see Mary-Louise Parker get an expanded role as Sarah and hers is perhaps the character that most benefits from a second appearance. A bit of a wet lettuce at times in the first film she is given more screen time and more jokes in the sequel and takes to it like a duck to water. Sure, her transformation from klutz to killer in the space of 100 minutes is not realistic, but let's be honest; there are far more unrealistic things to worry about in a film like this than whether one of the heroines learns to fire a gun. Whether misunderstanding something, using her new-found "powers of persuasion" (to the dismay of Moses) or hilariously guarding a door (no, really) she is a revelation and steals the film.
...Or at least she would if it weren't for the presence of Antony Hopkins, hamming it up for all it's worth. He hasn't so much turned the dial up to 11 as broken it right off. His Excess Filter has clearly been disabled as he chronically (but brilliantly) overacts his way through the entire film, stealing every scene he is in. He even has the audacity to spoof his own Oscar-winning role in The Silence of the Lambs and get away with it. It's clear that Hopkins is having a blast.
I mentioned above there were two exceptions to the otherwise excellent cast: enter Catherine Zeta Jones as Katja (Russian Secret Agent Frank's ex-lover) and Brian Cox (as ex-KBG agent Ivan). Zeta Jones looks out of place and seems to struggle to find her place in the star-studded cast. Her accent (Swansea by way of America with the odd passing nod to Russia when she remembers) is distracting and it's a mercy when she disappears part-way through. Cox is fine as far as he goes, but either suffers from an underwritten part, or most of his lines ended up on the cutting room floor. As a result, his character is almost entirely superfluous.
Crucially (and unlike most of this summer's tent pole movies) RED 2 knows not to outstay its welcome. At 113 minutes, it is almost perfectly paced and finishes when it needs to finish. There's no artificial extended coda or unnecessarily drawn-out finale to drag it over the 2 hour mark (which Hollywood now seems to think is the minimum acceptable run time). I left the cinema thinking I could have watched just a tiny bit more - always preferable to watching a film that goes on for just that little bit too long.
RED 2 might not be 2013's cleverest, most expensive or most visually impressive film but it knows what it's there to do and it does it well. It delivers fun, action, excitement and comedy in just the right mix to keep the audience entertained throughout. In a summer of hugely disappointing blockbusters, it's good to see some things never change. RED 2 might not be much of an advance on RED, but boy, it's a blast!
Director: Dean Parisot
Running time: approx. 113 minutes
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013
When I was in the cinema last week queuing up to see the new Springsteen movie I spotted a poster for Red 2. Mmm, I thought to myself, I wouldn't mind coming back to watch this and wondered if it would be as appealing as the first film which came out in 2010.
~~~A short recap on the first film just in case readers haven't seen it.~~~
In Red, a squad of mature special ops agents unite to track down some bad guys. Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) was living a retired life when the CIA decided to bump him off. He had some information that they wanted and didn't want him to hang on to. On the run, Frank finds his old flame, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), and gets together his band of mates to help him including Marvin (John Malkovich), a former CIA black op; Victoria ( Helen Mirren), who was once a spy for M16; and Ivan (Brian Cox), a grumpy but likeable Russian ex-agent who also just happens to be Victoria's lover, a storyline that makes for some funny scenes in both films.
In the sequel, Red 2, we have the old band of renegades again trying to defy death on a daily basis. Victoria (Helen Mirren) may be pretty cool for 67, knows how to handle a shooter and to take down the bad guys but at the same time she wants to be hugged and consoled when her death seems foreseeable. Marvin (John Malkovich) is extremely paranoid about dying, he's persuaded himself that everyone is out to get him and Frank (Bruce Willis) has had enough, he wants out and to have a go again at living a normal life. We even see him in the beginning of the film shopping in a Costco store looking for every day items. Frank soon finds out that Interpol are on his tail and he's on the run again, like in the first film. This is when the shoot outs and the monkey business begin.
Frank and his buddies also learn that a portable nuclear device, leftover from the Cold War, may be armed and activated somewhere in Russia, so they track down the person who created it (Anthony Hopkins) in an attempt to defuse the bomb and stop global warfare. Meanwhile, a martial arts and weapons expert (Lee Byung-hun) is also hunting Moses; he's after the $20 million reward. It all adds up to pandemonium and stupidity, some hilarious fight scenes and car chases, and a couple of revolting moments as well as some unexpected twists (can you spot the good and bad guy?).
I'm always a bit dubious about sequels and generally think the first film is always the best. With Red 2, I was pleasantly surprised and I think I enjoyed it a lot more. It's funny; action packed and has a good cast of ageing professionals. It's worth going to the pictures just to see the facial expressions of Bruce Willis and Mary Louise Parker.
Mary Louise Parker has always been comical to look at, she has a comedic physical appearance and I never tire of her. She's sublime in Red 2.
However, I am beginning to grow a little weary of John Malkovich even though most of the reviews of the film I have read rate him highly. Years ago I loved his quirky ways, odd face and one liners but he is full of himself and way over the top in this. He still gets all the best one liners which is annoying, he is so tiresome.
Bruce Willis is just Bruce Willis, agreeable and irritable at the same time. He is such a professional and all the things that have made him the super hero over the years are all here. He's charming, funny and I believe in him, I always have since I saw him in Armageddon all those years back. He's good at working with other actors and you can see they seem to be having a lot fun in this film.
Helen Mirren is charming and has a great screen persona. She has some excellent lines in Red 2 and delivers them with humour and panache. There's a very funny tongue-in-cheek scene where she plays the Queen of England gone bananas, this is a gesture to her Oscar winning performance of The Queen.
Catherine Zeta-Jones makes a first appearance as one of Frank's old girlfriends, a sexy Russian with a strange accent. It's a pretty naff performance, she may have been sexy once in 'Darling Buds of May' but not any longer.
Of course you might guess Anthony Hopkins would play the crazy scientist. He's 75 now and still manages a good performance but the icing on the cake is Mary Louise Parker's role as Sarah. She really made me laugh out loud.
The film was shot in some pretty cool locations like Moscow, Paris, London and Canada. This added a bit more depth to the film and much better than just being filmed in US.
The soundtrack is a bit of a mixed bag with tracks from Canned Heat, the Stones, Linkin Park, Mozart and one of my Mum's favourites, Perry Como. It's enjoyable to listen to and I thought fitted in well with the film.
The film has a PG 13 certificate. This is for non-stop shoot outs although it is more like a comic book situation than really violent outbursts. There is nothing too gory or graphic and the language is very tame. Not a lot of sexual content apart from some very revealing dresses. That's all.
Runing Time: 116 minutes
Director: Dean Parisot
Writers: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber,
Red 2 is a fun film, I really liked it. Okay, you don't have to be an intellectual to work out the plot, it's simple. It's a boisterous comedy follow up to Red where ageing special agents play with death every day. They travel the world taking pot shots at their enemies and people who are out to get them. They do it with a big smile, sometimes laughing out loud even when death hangs over their heads. The car chases are ace and I loved every one.
It's out now in cinemas, go and see it.