I didn’t particularly like RED 2, but the first 90 minutes of it didn’t exactly bother me. Unfortunately, those 90 minutes were followed by another 26 minutes that I did mind. I’m not sure the last bit was much worse than the rest of it, but by then the movie had outstayed its already tepid welcome. Think of it as a tolerable, but hardly scintillating dinner guest who doesn’t know when to go home. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I’m sure this thing has an audience. For some reason, people my age and older seem to get a kick out of watching fellow card-carrying AARP members in this sort of movie — especially when Dame Helen Mirren brings out the heavier firepower.
RED 2 (the letters standing for “Retired Extremely Dangerous”) largely repeats the formula of RED (2010). Of course, Morgan Freeman’s character died in the first movie, so he’s gone. Ernest Borgnine really died in between movies, so he’s absent, too. And Willis and Mary-Louise Parker start out here as a couple. Otherwise, it’s the same thing — supposedly retired secret agents on the run from bad guys, good guys and just about everyone else while they try to make things to right. In this case, it’s all because Frank (Willis) and Marvin (John Malkovich) are thought to have knowledge of an old Cold War operation called Nightshade. It really doesn’t matter. It’s just an excuse to jet around the world, shoot things and get shot at. (That latter is immaterial since no one but the A-list cast can actually hit anything.)
The biggest problem with the film — aside from the fact that it seems to be cribbed from other movies — is it feels too calculated. The original wasn’t really all that good, but it had some novelty value that’s completely missing here. The first felt like fun. This feels like a paycheck. People show up and do more or less the same schtick they did last time. Mirren comes off best. Willis at least comes off better here than he did in this year’s A Good Day to Die Hard. Malkovich is on autopilot. Brian Cox is barely in evidence. Mary-Louise Parker is … well, Mary-Louise Parker. Big name Anthony Hopkins dishes up the same performance he’s been giving for years (Hitchcock aside).
On the plus side, the movie does keep moving, which is probably just an attempt to keep us from noticing that there’s nothing really there — other than a less guilt-inducing Expendables movie. It also keeps at bay the realization that this PG-13 rated film is actually more violent than the R-rated Only God Forgives — the major difference being less blood and fewer bad guys and insignificant extras getting killed. Rated PG-13 for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Flat Rock Cinema, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher