Red 2 is a Breath of Fresh Air
What do you get when you cross one of the world’s foremost movie stars, a cast that gels better than peas and carrots, a truck ton of action, and a script filled with witty rejoinders that doesn’t take itself too seriously? You get Red 2, the bigger and better sequel to 2010’s surprise hit based on the DC comic book series created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.
When we last left the gang, Frank (Bruce Willis, “Die Hard”, ), Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker, “Weeds”, “The West Wing”), Victoria (Helen Mirren, “The Queen”, “National Treasure 2”) and the slightly—no, VERY—off-kilter Marvin (John Malkovich, “Burn After Reading”, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”) had successfully thwarted Alexander Dunning’s (Richard Dreyfus) attempt at becoming the true power behind the Vice Presidency. Frank and Sarah are now living the quiet life, much to Sarah’s chagrin; she wants more action while Frank is doing everything in his power to keep her safe and away from danger. Said life is quickly disrupted when Frank is given the message that both Interpol and the CIA, led by the do-anything-to-get-answers Jack Horton (Neal McDonough, “Captain America”, “Justified”). Everyone wants the 411 on Nightshade, a Cold War plot to smuggle a nuclear device into Russia for detonation. Evidently the bomb is still out there and quite a few people are quite eager to get their hands on it and Frank’s at the top of the list in regards to discovering the bomb’s location. It’s a race against the clock for our merry band of misfits as they dodge the CIA, Interpol and assassins riding in vans tricked out with Miniguns in search of Nightshade before it gets into the wrong hands and goes BOOM.
Like its predecessor, much of Red 2’s success lies in the all-star cast. Willis, Parker, Mirren, and Malkovich are absolutely brilliant, playing off one another’s quirks with a natural chemistry of long-time friends. Throw in the return of Brian Cox (The Bourne Trilogy, “Troy”) as Inva Simonov, Victoria’s affable former-but-now-reunited Russian lover and the seamless transition from the first Red is met. But like all sequels, not only does Red 2 up the ante in regards to plot but it also throws in some curve balls for our friendly foursome. Frank’s past catches up with him pretty quickly when former flame Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones, “Chicago”, “Playing for Keeps”), a Russian intelligence officer and Frank’s own brand of kryptonite, enters the race. The unexpected triangle between Frank, Katja, and Sarah only strengthens an already funny movie, throwing Frank into the unenviable position of playing ref between his current and former loves. Byung-hun Lee, another newcomer to the franchise, is Han, the world’s foremost assassin tasked with taking out Frank. Han, a serious badass, able to take out targets with origami, harbors a major grudge against Frank for sending him to prison years ago. Lee, best known for his role as Storm Shadow from the GI Joe franchise, brings a physical grace to amplify the already wonderful kinetic spectacle of stunts, shooting and chases. McDonough and David Thewlis (“War Horse”, The Harry Potter series) round out the supporting cast, playing their roles quite well, adding menace and idiosyncratic levity (respectively) to an already fun ride.
The biggest addition though has to be Sir Anthony Hopkins. He plays Bailey, the genius behind the Nightshade project and overall kook locked up in a European mental hospital. If you thought Marvin was off his rocker, you’re in for a treat. He’s mad as a hatter…or is he crazy like a fox?
With superhero franchises in full swing as well as remakes and reboots up the wazoo, the action comedy genre is an avenue not many studios tread. In that regard, Red 2 is a breath of fresh air, giving us the laughs and action of the first but adding a bit of NOS fuel to an already well-burning fire. It’s a fun ride I’ll be taking in over and over once it comes to Blu-ray.
4 Smiley Geeks (out of 5)