Ever seen some fake-smiling, fake-tanning celebrity TV chef produce a display of culinary prestidigitation, but then when you replicate it, following the provided recipe to the letter and using the exact same ingredients, the end result is just… off? A little tougher to chew, a little harder to swallow, it’s just not quite as tasty as when you first saw it.
Well that’s pretty much the case with RED 2, which once again brings together all of the components that made the first film such an ebullient smash hit, but somehow still ends up a bit of stale flop.
That’s not to say that RED 2 is without it’s merits though. The cast of Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren as ou toppie/tannie government spies Frank, Marvin and Victoria, still know how to have a good time with what they’re given, despite the fact that Willis’s performance often feels like he’s just here for the paycheck and free lunch buffet. Luckily his thespian slack is picked up by the infectiously fun Mary-Louise Parker as Willis’ adrenalin seeking girlfriend, Sarah.
Franchise newcomers Anthony Hopkins, Byung-Hun Lee, Neal McDonough and Catherine Zeta Jones are a mixed bag though. Hopkins does what Hopkins always does – no more, no less – as the scatterbrained Dr Edward Bailey; Lee – who I’m now 100% convinced has a clause built into his contract that any film he stars in will find a way, no matter how silly, for him to show off his permanently glistening abs and pecs – fills the film’s kickass ass kicking quota handily; McDonough, as the ruthless agent on Willis and co’s trail, reminds of his character in Minority Report, only with more snark and steely bastardness; and a puffy-faced Jones ends up as the the world’s most unlikeliest Russian spy/general in the history of Russian spies/generals.
They all get up to some high-octane hijinks, when returning screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber’s screenplay has Willis, Parker and Malkovich lured out of their lives of laying low by the threat of a mysterious superweapon – which has its origin in one of their old botched missions – detonating in the heart of Russia. Who lured them out and what his/her endgame is, is unfortunately an overly convoluted jumble that frequently thumbs its whiskey-veined nose at logic and common sense, with some ridiculous plot twists along the way.
And here’s the film’s biggest problem. RED was a ridiculous movie, but one that blissfully basked in said ridiculousness, and in turn resulted in an effortlessly grin-inducing romp that you just couldn’t help but enjoy. Everything about RED 2 feels like an artificial attempt to recapture that exact same sense of popcorn munching magic, and in forcing the issue, through blatant “do the same thing from the previous movie, but bigger” set pieces, it all just comes across as tired and rote.
Director Dean Parisot, who takes over from original helmer Robert Schwentke, shows moments of that jovial snark that he pulled off so well on Galaxy Quest, but except for a couple nice nods back to the franchise’s comic book roots, generally plays it safe everywhere else. The result is a movie where, admittedly, nobody is doing anything criminal, but nobody is doing anything really special either. It isn’t a good film, nor is it an outright terrible film; it just is. And that, paradoxically, is actually worse than the second option.
Despite the fact that the visual of Dame Helen Mirren standing around in fatigues brandishing a monster of a sniper rifle never loses its charm, this was really never a sequel that anybody was asking for (except perhaps Bruce Willis’ bank manager), and maybe it would have been better off for us all if it had just stayed in retirement.
Last Updated: September 19, 2013