06th Nov2013

‘Red 2′ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung Hun Lee | Written by Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber | Directed by Dean Parisot

Red-2-cast

Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis) reunites his team of elite operatives for an abundance of action-packed adventures and cracking comedic moments as their new mission takes them across the globe – to Paris, London and Moscow. Outgunned and outmanned, they have only their cunning wits and old-school skills to rely on as they try to save the world from nuclear disaster.

I absolutely loved Red. Taking the idea of a group of retired spooks and putting them back into the field, dealing with all the fish-out-of-water hilarity that ensues, was a brilliant idea. And the casting on the original film was sublime. Bruce Willis playing someone not that agile, not that willing to put his life on the line, a la John McClane in Die Hard, was a masterstroke. Then adding John Malkovich and Helen Mirren to the mix? Another stroke of genius. The idea of re-teaming them for a sequel, especially given the first films fantastic epilogue seemed like a no-brainer. So what the hell happened..?

Red 2 is an ocean apart from the first film. Whereas that movie mixed comedy and action to near-perfection, everything about the sequel seems forced. Even the acting. It’s almost as if no-one really wanted to return for more adventures, yet were forced to by contractual obligations. Maybe that’s why Bruce Willis seemingly had a mental breakdown during the press tour for the flick? Who knows. What I do know is that Red 2 completely misses the point and more importantly is missing the heart, that the original film had. And a lot of the fun…

It’s actually hard to fathom that the screenwriters behind this sequel also penned the first film. Maybe it’s because the first movie had the graphic novel to work from as a (very loose) basis? Maybe the film was rushed into production and there wasn’t enough script-polishing time available? I don’t have the answers. But what I don know is that the proposed third film should really find a way to re-capture what made Red great, otherwise it will be yet another example of Hollywood scraping the bottom of the franchise barrel. Again. Hell, at least make sure any further films aren’t as boredom-inducing as Red 2!

But enough about the bad. There is some good, no matter how small, about Red 2. For one, Helen Mirren has never looked so badass. Ever. The scene in which her character wields two handguns out of a spinning car, shooting the bad guys and the cops is THE highlight of the film. As is her partner in crime in that scene, Byung Hun Lee. Never has there been a cooler, more badass James Bond wannabe as Lee’s character. I’d pay to see him in a film all of his own to be honest – someone give Byung Hun Lee the headline role in a bid-budget Hollywood action flick pronto!

But two great performances do not a fantastic film make. Last time round ALL the cast seemed to be giving it their all. This time round the majority of the cast (Mirren, Hopkins and Lee aside) seem to be phoning it in. Which can only lead to one thing. Disappointment. And disappointed I most certainly was. Maybe its time “the best” should rest.

Red 2 is released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 25th, courtesy of eOne.

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