Friday, July 19, 2013

Review: Red 2

An elderly man fakes his death to trick his friend into delivering a tear-filled eulogy while he’s still alive to hear it. A skit from a random episode of Betty White’s Off Their Rockers? Nope, just another example of the filmmakers’ belief that old folks be crazy in Red 2.

We open in Costco, where the happy star-crossed lovers from the first film, Frank (Bruce Willis) and Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), are beginning to show that their relationship may not be built to last. Frank is more than happy to play the role of happy retiree now that the US government has no reason to hunt him down, while Sarah is beginning to miss the excitement that drew the two together in the first place.

Enter Marvin (John Malkovich), with a theory of a new conspiracy against the elder agents. It seems that someone has leaked the orders of a mission the two were on during the Cold War that involved the transport of a portable nuclear device. After a failed assassination attempt by government operative Jack Horton (Neal McDonough), the trio go on a globetrotting adventure that finds them ducking a hitman with a grudge (Byung-hun Lee), as well as their old friend Victoria (Helen Mirren).

Dean Parisot has been in Directors Jail since Fun with Dick and Jane failed to light up the box office in 2005. Mostly working in television since then, Red 2 is Parisot’s first feature in 8 years. Hopefully his bunk is still open, because I don’t believe this will be the film to cause his peers to figuratively raise his jersey to the rafters. Dull action sequences; uninspired work from Willis, and wasted efforts by Malkovich, Mirren, and Parker; and the latest in a long line to attempt to include comic panels as transitions without coming off as cheesy; all of this can be found inside!

A few of the actors manage to produce enjoyable work, but only by using the age-old method known as “chewing the scenery”. Brian Cox returns as Russian ally Ivan, who once again saves his friends’ hides while taking time to woo his beloved Victoria. David Thewlis appears as a Frenchman selling information to the highest bidder, with an incredible ability to avoid capture. Last but certainly not least is Anthony Hopkins as Bailey, the ill-fated creator of the nuclear weapon, who is also more than he seems.
How does Red 2 rank when compared to the first installment of the franchise? It’s actually really hard to say. While I enjoyed the first one quite a bit, this one failed to connect with me. I suppose it can be blamed on Parisot’s inability to draw the same “fun” out of the performers that original director Robert Schwentke (R.I.P.D.) managed to produce. Suffice it to say, this is probably one you can afford to skip.

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