Rating: **: Cast: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung-hun Lee, David Thewlis, Brian Cox, Neal McDonough, Steven Berkoff, Tim Pigott-Smith, Garrick Hagon; Director: Dean Parisot;
"Red 2" is an action-comedy based on the DC Comics graphic mini series created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. It is about retired agents deemed "RED" or "Retired Extremely Dangerous", by their respective agencies, who are called back into action by circumstances beyond their control.
In the film, retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is leading a sedentary life with his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). Out of the blue he finds himself becoming a fugitive, when he runs away from a "reliably nasty" FBI official (Neal McDonough) who is interrogating him about an old document that's leaked on the Internet, linking him and fellow retiree Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) to a top secret Cold War weapon.
Now on the run, Frank along with Sarah and Marvin, not only have to clear their names, but discover that they also have to contend with two other assassins; their old friend - the sharpshooter Victoria (Helen Mirren), who's been contracted by MI6 to kill them, and Han (Lee Byung-hun), Frank's dangerously murderous old protege-turned-contract killer.
As the three of them zip from Texas to London to Paris to Hong Kong to Moscow, they reconnect with loads of new characters including Frank's ex-girlfriend a Russian Spy, Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and British scientist Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), who's been locked up for decades and may know the whereabouts of the missing weapons.
The plot intermittently spluttered with action and humour is either tediously or incompetently staged. There are no risks or dangers to any of the truly terrifying situations. The menacing situations are resolved by demure settled one-liners and the film's escalation to what should be a pretty significant event, a nuclear explosion, is at best, dismissively handled.
The sub-plot of the bickering romance between Frank and Sarah, amateurishly cartoonish and complicated by Katja, distracts the audience from the main plot. The only time the audience is drawn to their seats' edge is during the car and motor-cycle chase, which is impressive.
The characters are predictable and stale in their approach. The performances of John Malkovich, Mary-Louisse Parker and Bruce Willis seem to be on auto-pilot mode. There is nothing new and exciting that they bring on to the table.
With nothing much to do, Helen Mirren is wasted and Catherine Zeta-Jones is stiff and wooden. Antony Hopkins' amusing performance as the mentally unbalance scientist creates a mild ripple on screen but soon settles down in to the staid flow of events.
It's only Lee Byung-hun who seems to have got a fair deal to show off his martial arts. In fact, his action scenes brimming with comic timing makes him the perfect replacement for the retired Jackie-Chan.
Technical credits are sturdy but unexceptional. Director Dean Parisot, known for his liberal use of Computer Graphic Images, has this time done much of the action pieces through in-camera effects and compositions.
The location lensing in France and Britain captures the ambience, though sequences set, but not shot in Russia suffer by comparison.
Overall, "Red 2" is a big letdown, as very little occurs from the first act to the third that is completely unexpected.