MRR Review: "Red 2"

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Frank Moses and his motley crew of retired assassins return for a second outing. But will he be up against some of his own?
3.5

In "Red 2," just like in the original "Red," Frank (Bruce Willis) is drawn out of retirement from his job as a black-ops CIA agent because someone from his very adventurous past has decided to kill him. The twist this time is that that someone hires Victoria (Helen Mirren) to kill him. For those who have not seen "Red," Victoria is the take-no-prisoners assassin who used to be Frank's ally. She saved his life more than once back in the day, but now she intends to fry his bacon and collect a hefty reward for doing so.
Movie Review: "Red 2"

Rating: PG-13 (pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, some language and drug material)
Length: 116 minutes
Release Date: July 19, 2013
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Genre: Action/Comedy/Crime

Poor Frank just wants to enjoy his retirement with his girlfriend, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), but he is once again drawn into the violent fray after Marvin (John Malkovich) accosts him in a Costco to let him know that he is targeted for assassination. He tries to reason with Victoria, who basically tells him in her own way to enjoy the time he has left. To make matters worse, the U.S. government also wants Frank dead and has hired the dangerous Han Cho Bai (Byung-hun Lee) to get the job done. Frank has no choice but to gather the old team together to come up with a plan to save his life. He must also keep Sarah safe, but he doesn't trust anyone enough to leave her with someone else, especially after Victoria's betrayal. Instead, she must tag along and try to learn the ropes, even though she has barely even held a gun before, much less had to use it to shoot someone.

Together, Frank, Sarah, and Marvin find Frank's ex-girlfriend, Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who might still hold a torch for her old flame. The only way to call off the assassins is to prove that Frank and Marvin did not take part in a recent special-ops assignment, which someone has wrongly accused them of. In order to do so, they need to break scientist Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) out of an insane asylum that he has been locked up in for over 30 years. It's just one of many adventures that the old team embarks upon on the way to clearing Frank's name and helping him get back to retirement.

In 2010, the original "Red" was one of the most unlikely hits of the year, defying all predictions and earning over $200 million globally. The thought of putting an aging Willis in an action movie with Mirren was derided by some before it came out, but the critics were quickly silenced. The film was fun, escapist entertainment that let the audience just sit back and enjoy without a big whodunit mystery or existential questions. "Red 2" follows in its predecessor's footsteps by giving the audience more of the same. It combines fight scenes, car chases, and lots of comic relief to form a pop confection that is perfect for the summer season. Sure, plenty of other action films will be in the theater at the same time, but "Red 2" stands apart mostly because of the stellar cast.

Though Willis and Mirren are the two biggest stars and command the most screen time, it is the supporting cast around them that really shines. In fact, one could argue that Malkovich steals the show with his precise comic timing. Any time things start to get a bit heavy, Malkovich has a one-liner or observation that gives a dose of levity to the scene. This ensures the film never becomes dour or dark, even though several people die in the many scenes of mayhem. Parker also holds her own in this cast, providing humor when Malkovich's character isn't available. Some fans wondered if a sequel would be the same, since the great Morgan Freeman is not returning, but the addition of Zeta-Jones and Hopkins more than makes up for his absence. Hopkins is delightful to watch, especially during his interaction with Willis. He basically plays the comic to Willis' straight man, with hilarious results.

Many action films in today's market come with a heavy dose of brooding, often because the hero of the film is dealing with some weighty issues. This is a good development, because it has breathed new life into a genre that was beginning to get a bit stodgy. However, that doesn't mean that all action films from here on out need to be dark and edgy. "Red 2" proves that when done properly, old-fashioned action films can still thrill an audience and thoroughly entertain them. It is a throwback film full of throwback actors who look like they are having a whole lot of fun filming. Thankfully, the audience will have just as much fun watching the fruits of their labor.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5