Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
"Red 2" is a mixed bag, in terms of its presentation and the identity the franchise is trying to acquire. Arriving three years after its predecessor, the sequel is now a full-blown comedy that tries to fit in as much exposition as possible, which makes it feel draggier and therefore less exciting. Additionally, the film also plays out like a travel brochure. However, the chemistry between the cast and South Korean actor Lee Byung-hun's abs are worth the price of admission, and make a strong case for the existence of a "Red" franchise.
The formula for "Red 2" remains much the same as the original. Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is still a retired black-ops CIA agent, this time living with Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker). But their relationship has reached a stale point, what with Frank's over-protectiveness of Sarah. When Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) shows up to tell Frank that he and Marvin have been framed as nuclear terrorists, Sarah is more than eager for Frank and herself to get back into the game and clear their names.
It is clear that the writers behind "Red 2" are targeting an audience that has watched the first, because the film moves very fast, with Marvin showing up after the first five minutes telling Frank that he knows he is dissatisfied with his quiet life. The film hardly spends any time on the framing device, leaving us to come to the conclusion that all retired CIA agents are unable to live a normal life and that "something exciting" always happens to pull them out of retirement. Look at Liam Neeson's "Taken" and Aaron Eckhart's "Erased". The rest of the film plays out in much the same way, telling us rather than showing us, and after a while, it gets kind of tiring to be hustled from one place to another without proper explanations save that it is the next item on the checklist. It's the perfunctory introduction to get straight to the action, but here's hoping that the third film doesn't just send a hit squad after Frank, Marvin and Sarah, forcing them to go on the run.
Although the plot may be formulaic, the chemistry between the characters are great, which in turn, makes for great comedy. Frank's straight man reactions to Marvin's crazy schemes and antics have always been gold, since they are hilarious without being lowbrow. The film also has the good sense to make a mockery of itself, such as the scene where Helen Mirren blasts two enemy cars from her car as it spins around. The special effects were so over-the-top that it is impossible to see the scene as anything but a jab at action films in general. Further, if you are a diehard cinephile, you will appreciate the nods they make to some of the actors' past films.
There is also a bit of an identity problem with "Red 2". The films have a more light-hearted approach compared to the limited comic book series of the same name created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, but with "Red 2", the action takes a backseat. There is a lot of shooting, kicking, punching and stabbing, but there is no sense of real danger, because the bad guys always miss, the good guys fight then make up, and the people who actually die are of no consequence whatsoever. It is "The Expendables" minus the flabbier aspects. The film also insists on transporting Frank and the gang all over the world, from Virginia to Hong Kong to London to Moscow to Paris, without missing a beat. We don't expect films to adhere to real-world parameters such as having the characters eating three times a day, but "Red 2" is a stretch, given that there wasn't any real purpose in their international caper (the film had their Montreal locale double as London in some scenes).
It is also difficult not to be incredulous with Mary-Louise Parker as Sarah Ross. It seems like she went through half the film high on weed, since she is either half-grinning or pouting in every scene. We get that she is meant to be a character for girls who have been dragged to the cinema by their guys to relate to, and while her one-liners work sometimes, the combination of her naivety, eagerness and klutziness starts to wear a little thin in the second half. The same goes for Catherine Zeta-Jones as the Russian CIA agent Miranda Wood. She may not be as average as Sarah, but could the writers make her any less significant? The only commendable new addition to "Red" cast is Lee Byung-hun as Han. It is nice to see a non-American actor besides Helen Mirren getting some good lines, and not only that, his lines were not dubbed over.
All in all, "Red 2" is a sequel that follows in the footsteps of its predecessor and an entertaining film that does not really try to be good. Like "The Expendables", the film is tailor-made for genre fans. What "Red 2" lacks in story, it makes up for it with humour and romance between characters played by actors we like, only that it could have benefited from more interesting moments.Cinema Online, 17 July 2013