When a character in a film speaks the line, “I didn’t see that coming,” but they are the only one in the theater that didn’t, then you know the movie is in trouble. That’s the problem with Red 2, the sequel to the film about retired CIA agents who not-so-reluctantly end up back in action; it’s as bland as a senior citizen’s bowl of oatmeal and as predictable as the subsequent bowel movement.
If you missed the first Red movie, the story is based on the comic-book by writer Warren Ellis and involves a group of “Retired, Extremely Dangerous” CIA operatives who are bored with a life that doesn’t include non-stop explosions, car chases and killing. Globetrotting action ensues as said former agents find themselves the targets of assassins, terrorists and other convoluted plot devices used to show the old guys still have their skills.
There’s not much different in Red2, except that some of the aging actors have been replaced with other geriatric players, including Anthony Hopkins as a psycho MI6 agent and Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian femme fatale. Other new faces include Byung-hun Lee as a martial arts assassin and Neal McDonough as an evil active CIA agent.
Returning for Red 2 is Bruce Willis as the low-key CIA retiree Frank Moses, Mary-Louise Parker as his younger-girlfriend Sarah, Helen Mirren as the former MI6 agent Victoria and John Malkovich as the paranoid Marvin Boggs. Malkovich and Mirren are always a pleasure to watch and they save this film from being a total disaster. Willis, on the other hand, appears to sleepwalk through this movie, and Parker is just downright annoying as the girlfriend desperately trying to get in on the action.
To give Willis and Parker credit though, their respective performances are fine; it’s the poor writing by Jon & Erich Hoeber (Whiteout), who apparently milked the concept dry with their first go around, and the direction by Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) that’s at fault here. Red 2 plays like a hackneyed television movie, albeit one with upscale and underutilized acting talent.
In particular, Anthony Hopkins immense acting skills are almost completely wasted in this picture as he plays a cartoonish version of a psychotic mad scientist. The characters are written as aged archetypes and are played with tongue-in-cheek, but unlike the Expendables films, Willis and Lee are the only ones in Red 2 with an action-film pedigree to speak of, and the wink & nod moments just feel forced and out of place.
This film does have a few amusing scenes, mostly stemming from Malkovich’s comedic portrayal of Marvin, but I actually found myself dozing-off during one of the movie’s big “action” sequences (another very bad sign for an action movie.) It’s all just the same old and tired formula and the “retiree” twist isn’t enough to carry the run-of-the-mill material.