Starring: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Mary Louise Parker, Anthony Hopkins
Whether we want them to be or not, sequels are going to be in our lives until they literally stop making movies. And with big films, particularly with summer films, anything with an original arc that is going to cost a studio a couple of bucks is an will continue to be, a dying breed. I don’t mind sequels, for the most part. Sure some of them make you scratch your head in confusion as to whey they are being made but some end up actually improving upon the original in some way. Red, a film that came out in 2010 and carried with it the distinction of being that movie where Helen Mirren plays an assassin did better than anyone expected it to. I liked Red. I walked into it only because I wanted to kill a couple of hours and lets face it, it had a good quality cast. I walked out pleasantly surprised. So when I started seeing promotional stuff for Red 2, I thought, “Well, I can get on board with this”. I walked out of Red 2 with a completely different reaction than Red. That reaction you might ask…”f**k this”.
Yes, Red 2 squanders away any and all goodwill left by its predecessor. Squander might be too lax of a word, it annihilates with hurricane level 5 forces, any and all goodwill left by its predecessor. Is it the actors fault? Yes. Is it the director’s fault? Yes. Is it the scripts fault? Yes. I don’t know if I can find really anything good to say about Red 2. Sure I’ll try as this reviews carries on, but I may be sitting at my computer for a while trying to find that positive spin. Oh wait…I found one. I’m not sitting in a theater watching Red 2 anymore. That’s positive right?
Our sequel begins with Frank (Bruce Willis) and Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) trying to live the quiet life, which involves shopping at Costco. Sarah is bored though, which quickly turns around when Marvin (John Malkovich) shows up to tell Frank that someone is following him. Turns out he’s right as Marvin’s car explodes in the parking lot…with Marvin in the car. Turns out he and Frank have been linked to a shady project called Nightshade and now people want them dead, especially Jack Horton (Neil McDonough). So off they go to clear their names and in the process find that Victoria (Helen Mirren) has been hired to kill them (though do you really expect her to?) and a run in with a former flame of Frank's, Katya (Catherine Zeta-Jones) Horton also brings on Han (Byung-hun Lee), the story tells us he’s the deadliest assassin working today, but funny how that doesn’t work out when it comes to taking out Marvin and Frank (there is one ridiculous scene that shows this pretty well). The quest to clear their names leads Marvin and Frank to Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), the developer of Nightshade and might be completely insane). Will the boys clear their names? Yes. Is someone listed in this paragraph not as they appear to be? Yes? Is any of this exciting? No.
The main problem with Red 2 is its laziness. With sequels, since your characters have already been established, there is an opportunity to expand what we already know about them. That doesn’t happen here. The movie is so concerned with being this frenetic action film that it forgets what made the first such a pleasant surprise. This movie is all action, which really takes you out of the story and the characters. Right from the get go, you never get a chance to settle in with these characters. Had this movie been Expendables 3, I might have a different reaction to it. But since this is Red 2, it's baffling the roads this movie took.
And maybe this was just me, but it felt like every actor in this had something better to do and had it not been for the healthy paychecks they all received, they would be doing that something better. They seem so uninvolved with what is going on. Even Malkovich, who was so good in the first one, seems like he realized doing this sequel was a bad idea and that realization starts to show…badly. And the acting is really the selling point for these films. You have all these wonderful actors, playing against type. For God’s sake, give them a reason to be here.
It’s sad to say this, but I had more fun watching Grown Ups 2. That movie was awful. Red 2 doesn’t even try and in turn, burns its bridge. I hope I'm not in the minority here and Red 2 quietly goes away and no more sequels find their way to the theaters. Red was good, but its clear it was lighting in a bottle. It happens.