Red, a sort of adaptation to DC Comics’ limited comic book series of the same name, was released two years ago to modest box office success and lukewarm critical reception. You’d think, then, that the sequel, which sees Dean Parisot assume the directorial reigns, would iron out the issues that plagued its predecessor. Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case, and Red 2 ends up being as nonsensical, irritating and lacking in credible narrative as Red was.
Former CIA agent Frank (Bruce Willis), now living the quiet life with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), finds himself called back into action after Marvin (John Malkovich) informs him that they’re been framed for their knowledge of “Nightshade”, a Cold War-era operation involving a weapon of mass destruction. In an effort to clear their names and ensure the weapon is kept out of enemy hands, they cross paths with MI6 assassin Victoria (Helen Mirren) and feral killer Han Cho Bai (Byung-hun Lee).
The script – penned by returning screenwriters Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber – sets into motion a transcontinental action comedy that takes in cities as far and wide as Moscow, London and Paris, and sees the trio tussle with familiar and new faces (Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins both crop up as Russian spy Katja and bomb maker Bailey, respectively). This is the perfect enabler for a surface-level fast-paced romp.
That’s about all Red 2 is though. No matter how many action sequences are thrown into the mix, or how entertaining it is to watch the roster of ageing cast members quarrelling and one-upping one another (and it’s safe the say that the humour, at least, has come on leaps and bounds since the first film), there’s limited substance or cleverness beyond the minor exterior thrills. And even then, the twists and turns and action sequences are only used as a means to an end.
It’s the cast that save the film from being a complete bore. Returnees Willis, Malkovich, Parker and Mirren bring a winning level of energy to proceedings, which not only adds exciting flavours to their otherwise thinly written characters, but also results in some truly witty moments. Sadly, the same can’t be said for new cast members Zeta-Jones, Hopkins and Lee, who all fail to deliver the goods, perhaps due to their unimportance to the film as a whole.
Somewhere, someone decided that the slim $200M worldwide tally for Red made it successful enough to bring back for a sequel. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. And, despite the efforts of the cast, director Parisot, whose style feels somewhat more of a fit with the ever-fluctuating mood and tone, and more lively infusions of comedic moments, the script simply isn’t robust enough to make Red 2 feel in any way worthwhile.