Along with Despicable Me 2 (3rd time in a year and a half) and Home Alone, RED 2 is 1 of the films I watched on Christmas Day, and since it’s 1 I haven’t reviewed yet, here it is. I may do Home Alone later, we’ll see.
RED 2 is the sequel to the 2010 action comedy RED, which stands for “Retired, Extremely Dangerous”, and focuses primarily on a group of retired secret agents who still have a few loose ends, a few sandwiches short of a picnic and some pocket money on their noggins. As odd as it might sound to some, this is actually a comic book movie that DC developed (RED was a comic series that lasted about 3 issues. Never heard of it? That’s fine, before the movies came out, neither did I). Our film has a variety of familiar faces, some who would suit this project right down to the ground, and others who have that “respect and prestige” of being a world class actor, who decided to be in this film because “this looks like good fun”.
Our main character is Frank Moses (played by John McClane himself, Bruce Willis), a former Black-Ops CIA Agent who wants a stereotypically quiet life, out in the backside of nowhere, on a farm, with a dog and few neighbours (that type of thing). But he ends up getting sucked back into his old ways somehow, along with his old buddies, including nutcase explosives expert Marvin Boggs (played beautifully and amusingly by John Malkovich), wetwork agent Victoria Winslow (played, believe it or not, by Helen Mirren), and former Russian secret agent Ivan Simanov (played by Brian Cox). Everybody I’ve mentioned here does action scenes in this movie and its prequel.
RED 1 was truly a crazy movie, and RED 2 is no different. At the beginning of the film, Frank Moses is with his girlfriend Sarah Ross (played by Mary-Louise Parker) who experienced a lot of action in the previous film. He wants the quiet life and she’s itching to do something as exciting as last time. While in Cost-Co, Marvin Boggs appears in disguise, telling Frank that people are still after him. When Frank turns down his help (and disappoints Sarah), Marvin’s car explodes, leading to a funeral (don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled anything). Afterwards, Frank is taken in by government agents, is interrogated, and then nearly assassinated by Jack Horton (played by Neal McDonough), Frank escapes with the help of a seemingly resurrected Marvin and they go on the run. Meanwhile, the world’s greatest assassin, Han Cho-Bai (played by “The Bad” in The Good, The Bad and The Weird, Lee Byung-hun) is also hunting down Frank, Victoria Winslow has been hired by M16 to kill Frank, Frank, Marvin and Sarah are looking for a man nicknamed “The Frog” in Paris (played by David Thewlis, an english actor who lives in Paris), Russian Secret Agent (and Frank’s former fling) Katya appears (played by Catherine Zeta Jones, who really doesn’t suit a heavy tan) to help, and the film might involve Anthony Hopkins and a bomb later on (no spoilers now).
I’ll mention what’s bad about RED 2 just to get it out of the way; RED 2’s story is a bit of a mess. A bit incoherent and unfocused in its narrative. A lot goes on within these 2 hours, but there’s almost too much going on at the same time, and some might even argue that our retired and extremely dangerous main characters are a bit overpowered when going up against the “new kids”. On the other hand, maybe there’s a message there, or maybe that’s all part of the fun?
Without a doubt, this film is good fun. Full of good comedy, really over the top car chases, and more amusing and over the top fight scenes. And despite the amount of action and violence, is actually quite a gentle film. It’s stupid beyond belief, but the movie doesn’t care! The filmmakers certainly didn’t seem to, they look like they’re having some fun. It’s a fun film, full of great characters and great actors…and for me it also says “If Grand Theft Auto 5 was made into a hollywood film, John Malkovich could be Trevor Phillips”.
Would I recommend this film? Only if you’ve seen the prequel and enjoyed that. Is RED 2 as good as its prequel? No…for 1 thing it couldn’t really stand on its own, secondly it’s even more mindless. The action scenes are roughly as good, but don’t expect it to be too epic. Flashy? Yes. Funny? Yes. But nothing overly crafted and Hong Kong Cinema in nature. It’s good fun, but there isn’t really an enormous amount of threat, even if it appears that way. It’s not to be taken too seriously as an action film, but should also to be treated as a light comedy as well. Nothing ground-breaking, just a fun little movie.
Overall rating: ***1/4 out of 5 (yes, I had more fun watching this than The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies)