Retired CIA black-ops agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) reunites his team of elite operatives - including Marvin (John Malkovich), deadly sharp-shooter Victoria (Helen Mirren) and Frank's beloved Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) - for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. They come up against an army of relentless assassins, ruthless terrorists and power-crazed government officials, all eager to get their hands on the next-generation weapon. The mission takes them to Paris, London and Moscow, where they cross paths with Frank's seductive former flame Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones), as well as Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant scientist from Frank's past. Outgunned and outmanned, they have only their cunning, their old-school skills, and each other to rely on.
Review by Louise Keller:
The basic formula of the freefall of action, laughs and casting class of the 2010 first film is the same, but everything is less spontaneous, a little more forced and a tad overcooked this second time around. It feels as though screenwriters Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber (who also penned the original) have dug too deep in search of bigger and more complex plots and action while director Dean Parison of Galaxy Quest renown has opted for performances that play a little too broadly.
The story involves a secret CIA project called Nightshade about a hidden nuclear weapon, prompting the Retired and Extremely Dangerous Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) to leave the domestic bliss he is trying to create with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) and save the world. His partner in crime is the wonderfully eccentric Marvin (John Malkovich) who reminds Frank that he has not killed anyone in four months. Sarah tags along too. After all, it was the action and adventure that drew her to Frank in the first place.
Parker is the film's weakest link - she is perpetually irritating. Her facial expressions are overdone while her relationship with Willis is never credible and the attempts at screwball comedy bellyflop. By contrast Willis' chemistry with Catherine Zeta-Jones as his 'kryptonite' and Russian counter intelligence former squeeze Katja is interesting, even if it does not sizzle. The jealousy angle works a treat when Frank is with Katja but the reverse angle, when Sarah kisses a few frogs is far less successful. The occasional graphic title card acting as an interstitial is quite effective.
The film's pleasures lie in the quirky relationships between Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. This is the casting that remains irresistible, although Malkovich hams it up on occasions. Willis is always good but it is Mirren who comes out best, managing to pinpoint the right tone, whether elegantly disposing of bodies in a bathtub of acid or firing guns through both windows of a speeding blue Lotus.
Handsome Korean martial arts star Kyaung-hun Lee is excellent as the world's best contract killer, Brian Cox has a couple of terrific scenes and David Thewlis is memorable as the misanthrope, wine-connoisseur known as The Frog. Anthony Hopkins' brilliant British scientist Edward Bailey scribbles equations on a blackboard a la Russell Crowe in A Brilliant Mind and proffers an unconvincing blend of demented and menacing undertones. The character does not gel and this is not one of Hopkins' better roles.
There is no shortage of action - to the contrary there is so much going on from continent to continent, that I felt tired. Beyond the onslaught of pelting bullets and a wild car chase in Paris, there are constant shifts and changes with additional characters opting in and out none of which adds to the overall impact. The underlying humour and dry delivery works much of the time, although it is a shame that it was not possible to replicate Red director Robert Schwentke's lighter touch.
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RED 2 (M)
CAST: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Mary Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, David Thewlis, Anthony Hopkins
PRODUCER: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian
DIRECTOR: Dean Parisot
SCRIPT: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Enrique Chediak
EDITOR: Don Zimmerman
MUSIC: Alan Silvestri
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jim Clay
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 29, 2013