Written by Zac Platt.
Red 2 picks up where we left off with ex-ex-ex-black ops agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) enjoying suburban bliss with Sarah (Marie-Louise Parker). While Frank is fairly happy in his re-retirement, the magic is starting to fade away for Sarah. Luckily we don’t get through the first scene before the ever-eccentric John Malcovich turns up to bring them back into the world of espionage, shootouts and car-chases with Linkin Park blaring in the soundtrack. Red 2 is not a movie that will surprise you, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any fun to be had. The one-liners are abundant and there’s some pretty formulaic plotting, but more often than not the characters are fun, the dialogue bouncy, and the pacing refreshingly brisk. Sure it’s all very vanilla, but sometimes it’s OK to cater to a less refined part of the palate.
With its light-hearted tone and lack of violence, Red 2 is definitely aiming at a more adolescent demographic. You’ll still see plenty of gun-fights and explosions, but there won’t be any blood on the blade when the villain stabs someone in the back. Good thing, as a less discerning audience is required to overlook the cookie-cutter plot and exaggerated reactions that most will find tiring. But being the produce of the well-oiled studio system does come with some benefits; namely its kinetic pacing and tight scene-construction. Sure the overall framework is pretty uninspired, but moment to moment there is plenty going on to keep you interested, wasting very little time as you rocket through the film.
While the action and drama are polished enough, the comedy in Red 2 is a lot more hit or miss. Unfortunately the misses tend to be more bombastic than the more successful character jabs, making it difficult to pick up on the heartier and subtle quips amongst the shouting and obnoxious one-liners. There were times where I found the character’s quirks engaging and even let out a chuckle once or twice, but the rest of the time it was just the cast frantically exclaiming their current predicament, easy comedy clearly for the benefit of trailers and not the film itself.
Speaking of easy, for whatever reason Sarah seems to have regressed to a moronic and slutty 15 year old since we last saw the character. I understand that she is meant to be the fish out of water in this story, but she’s so bubbly and inept she trades in her everyman cap for that of the helpless bimbo. But what really leaves a bad taste is her repeatedly resorting to the suggestion of sex as her only useful asset. While few of the characters are well thought out, Sarah is borderline offensive. Thankfully we have Helen Mirren return with class and confidence to remind us that women co-stars needn’t always be this completely incompetent.
Aside from Mary-Louise Parker (and honestly, I don’t blame her as much as I do the writers), there really aren’t any surprises in the cast department, this is a pretty typical day’s work for Willis and co. That’s not to say they’re any less engaging, but I doubt any of them gave a second’s thought to their characters or the movie an hour either side of shooting. The one exception perhaps is Hopkins, who elevates Bailey to a much more engaging antagonist, making him seem accepting and defeatist while at the same time collected and menacing.
It also needs to be noted that the original concept of Red (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) seems largely forgotten in this sequel. In its place the filmmakers have tried to insert the aforementioned b-story about Frank and Sarah repairing their relationship, and rarely before have I seen a framework more tacked on after the fact than this one. It’s clear that book-ending the movie with this subplot was intended to amend the severe lack of character progression in the script. Not once do you get the impression that their relationship is at risk, except for the fact that other characters keep giving Frank advice on how to fix it. It’s completely obtuse and unnecessary, and for the life of me I cannot understand how it made it to the final cut.
The thing is, I want more out of my movie going experience, but maybe that’s unfair. If you can overlook the blemishes and formulaic plotting, you’re probably in for a good time. It’s generic and a little contrived, but the reliable cast and steady momentum allow for a decent amount of fun to bubble up regardless. Overall, Red 2 is an energetic and entertaining option if there’s nothing else on and you don’t mind forgetting about it the second you walk out of the cinema.
THE REEL SCORE: 6/10