Distributed by: Summit Entertainment
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Knowing that I really wanted to see RED 2, I made preparations. You see, I hadn't seen the original film, but was hysterical over promos for the sequel. That meant I had to rent a copy of RED before seeing the new movie. Glad I did - RED was great. But then I read a review of RED 2 in the newspaper while looking for theater times and almost didn't go. The movie critic seemed to hate the film, barely giving it any stars. As I read the review, I noted that he didn't seem to like the first one much either. That decided me - I loved the first one, so I was going to see RED 2!
RED was based on characters from the limited DC Comics series of the same name. RED 2 carries over some of these characters and takes place some time after the events of the original film. Much to the chagrin of his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), former CIA black-ops agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is delighted to finally live out a normal life. He is enjoying making purchases for his new home and excited to discover what a dull life might actually feel like.
It is during one of these routine shopping trip that Frank and Sarah run into Marvin (John Malkovich). Marvin is convinced that he is being followed and that they are all in danger, but Frank shrugs the warning off as more of Marvin's paranoia...until Marvin's car explodes. Sarah convinces Frank to attend Marvin's funeral. Shortly afterwards, Frank is taken in for interrogation by the CIA at their Yankee White Facility. Frank realizes he really is in trouble when a black-ops agent named Jack Horton (Neal McDonough) shows up and wipes out everyone in his path in an attempt to get to Frank.
Fortunately, Marvin and Sarah come to Frank's rescue. Frank learns that he and Marvin are being hunted because they have been listed as having participated in an operation known as Nightshade. Meanwhile, Victoria (Helen Mirren) calls to let Frank know she has just been hired by MI6 to kill them. To make matters worse, Han Cho-Bai (Lee Byung-hun), a top contract killer with a grudge against Frank Moses, has also been hired to take him out.
Frank, Marvin and Sarah, with the help of a few old friends, must discover what Nightshade is, why everyone wants it and why someone is so hot to eliminate anyone associated with the operation before they are tracked down and killed. Piece of cake.
Okay, so I don't know what critics are complaining about. No, this film was not as good as RED, but it's a sequel and it's hard to top an original film with a sequel. That being said, I thought it was a lot of fun. I loved the fact that Sarah was bored with her normal life and wanted to take on a new mission. I loved that she wanted more responsibilities. I laughed my butt off when Marvin sneaked her a gun without telling Frank. I also enjoyed her reaction to Frank's old flame, Russian secret agent Katya (Catherine Zeta-Jones). I was not, however a fan of Catherine Zeta-Jones in this film. I didn't see any chemistry between her and Frank, someone who is supposedly unable to resist Katya's charms, and I found the whole scenario unbelievable.
The idea of Nightshade was quite clever, although, not being a chemist, I'm not at all sure of the likelihood of such a creation. But I did love Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Edward Bailey, the somewhat befuddled mad scientist who created the thing. I'm not usually a fan of Hopkins' work, so that's saying something. I found him to be delightfully charming, hysterically screwy and chillingly murderous in this role. I suppose this role was made all the simpler for the actor being that it was a serious mix of several of his previous roles.
Helen Mirren is as brilliant and funny as ever in her role as Victoria Winters. I love the offhanded way she informs Frank that she has accepted a contract to kill him while she is cleaning up evidence of her last contracted kill. And her action scenes are top notch. In fact, the action scenes for everyone in RED 2 are off the charts with huge explosions, gunfights, hand-to-hand combat, chases and a really cool personal jet.
The ending was a bit unrealistic, but I can forgive all that thanks to all of the fun I was having with the rest of the film. No, RED 2 is not better than the original film and no, it's not going to win any awards at the Oscars, but this was a fun, shoot 'em up explosion of a film with a lot of action and some nicely choreographed martial arts scenes. This is not a thinking man's film - this is a film for lovers of action and for that, I can say it was worth the money.
As for the naysayer critics out there, I have to ask: what exactly were you expecting? No one said this was going to be an Academy Award nominated film. How many of those do you see that are based on comic books? I'm fairly certain that the creators simply wanted to make a film that would make the viewers chuckle while enjoying a heap of action and suspense. It's summertime, people! This is a time when we want to rest easy from the thinking man's film and just have a little fun. RED 2 is all that and a bag of popcorn!