The original Red (2010) was a fun escapist action comedy featuring an A-list cast willing to act silly to earn a few good laughs.
Some of the film’s plot was absurd and the conspiracy at its heart underwhelming, but the story worked and the actors did well in their goofy but satisfying roles. Its sequel– unsurprisingly titled “Red 2”– attempts to follow that formula and does so in a highly-watchable but admittedly complacent follow-up.
Bruce Willis returns as Frank, a “retired” CIA officer now in a serious relationship with Sarah (Mary Lousie-Parker), the woman he dated/kidnapped in the original. The two have settled into a comfortable but boring routine but Sarah longs to have another life-or-death adventure with her retired beau.
Her wish is granted quickly when Frank and his associate Marvin (John Malkovich) are targeted for death after being framed for a mission that they know little about. Their attempt to escape death and vindicate themselves fuels the plot.
The sequel inevitably attempts to replicate its predecessor’s sense of comic mayhem but lacks the original’s spontaneity and its neat premise. Supporting players like Malkovich and Helen Mirren (who returns to play the tough-as nails assassin Victoria) steal the show providing a few funny moments that keep this story from becoming too mundane. But even with them, the novelty is starting to wear off. Marvin is still as crazy and neurotic as ever and Victoria is still as violently sexy as previously was but the sequel adds little to what we already know about them.
The high-quality cast mostly returns for this second outing (save for Morgan Freeman and Richard Dreyfuss) but a few new high-class actors join the fray. Anthony Hopkins, at times appearing to do his best Hannibal Lecter impersonation, appears as a retired intelligence officer who has been locked up in psychiatric care for decades. Also joining the fun is Catherine Zeta-Jones, who traipses into the story as Frank’s former love interest who immediately gets into Sarah’s way. (The competitions between the two is one of the film’s highlights.)
Rejoicing in the action genre, the story does have a few great one-liners about the seductive power of weaponry. At one point, Ivan (Brian Cox)– Victoria’s (somewhat) love interest in the original)– notes that “there is nothing more sexy in the world than a beautiful woman with an incredible gun.” There are also several funny scenes where Marvin offers Sarah a gun much to Frank’s dismay. “You gave her a gun,” Frank shouts at his friend. “It is America, Frank,” Marvin responds.
The premise of this franchise appears to be wearing thin but Red 2 offers enough comedy and excitement to merit a recommendation. It pales in comparison to its predecessor but there’s something notably exciting about watching a group of actors make fun of their serious selves onscreen and take delight in kicking some ass.
If you enjoyed the original, you’ll likely enjoy this simple but comfortable follow-up. I wish that the filmmakers had aimed higher with this one but the ride is a satisfying one despite offering up little new to viewers.