Retired, extremely dull. The aged thesp gang return for a listless globetrotting shoot-em-up.
The answer to the question, 'Why are so many talented actors in Red 2?' could prompt a thesis if only there wasn’t a persuasive currency made of only five letters. Accepting that Helen Mirren, and her comrades in acting, are in it for the money (money, money) doesn’t mean this second adaptation of the eponymous DC comic trilogy should be put out to pasture. A lack of engaging content is why this should happen. Retired, extremely dull, more like.
A weary Bruce Willis reprises his role as assassin Frank Moses who has traded bullets for barbecue sets in his search of a quiet life. But retirement bores his manga-eyed girlfriend, Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) – the film’s one sweet spot. She is delighted when ex-industry pal, Marvin (John Malkovich) hoodwinks Frank’s finger back onto the trigger. The trio take a job and lo, an international cross-section of enemies pop up packing enormous firepower along with tenuous motives.
Chases, shoot outs, high tempo synth music, improbable escapes, glass shattering in rooms destroyed by tussles or casually lobbed sticks of dynamite accompanied with a wry line of dialogue as our friends walk away, still, apparently, endearingly human. These are the core ingredients of Red 2, remaining constant as opponents and locations of destruction change at random.
Nods to the original comic book format come in an erratically-deployed montage technique of cranking up the music and morphing actors into their animated doubles. At times, even when they remain human, slow edits mean characters seem caught up in the tableau of an individual panel. These distractions from the repetitive action are welcome.
Blessed oases of humour exist. If there’s anything to be taken away from Red 2, it’s that writers Jon and Erich Hoeber can turn out zinging dialogue. Most telling is
Frank: "You can't give her a gun!"
Marvin: "It is America, Frank."
Sarah: "Everyone else has a gun..."
Death and peril are so constant and inconsequential they lose all meaning but their dominance leave characters no space to interact on any but the thinnest ground. It feels like a glitzy Hollywood party where after a few glasses of bubbly, attendees have been invited to act out a melodramatic role picked out of a hat. Catherine Zeta-Jones got vampish Russian counter intelligence officer, Anthony Hopkins got eccentric inventor of WMDs.
They do what they can but this is not a vehicle for characters, it’s not even a vehicle for plot. Cynically, it would seem that this is a vehicle runs exclusively for and on the gas that is money.
We did not enjoy Red.
We did not enjoy Red 2.
We are worried about Red 3.