‘Red 2’ is Out of Retirement, But Barely

Bruce Willis and the gang returns for this adequate action sequel

RED 2, the in-one-eye, out-the-other sequel starring Bruce Willis, received a PG-13 for its “pervasive action and violence” and “frenetic gunplay,” according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating description. I love that they went out of their way to add the adjective “frenetic.” For the record, the best bit in the picture involves no automatic weaponry of any kind, nor that drooling, hollow cliché, recycled here, of ridiculous numbers of empty shell casings hitting the ground in slow motion. No. My favorite thing in the movie is the way co-star and Korean action icon Byung Hun Lee uses his feet of fury to hoist a paint can and send it flying.

Footwork beats fusillades every time in this follow-up to the 2010 RED. Willis returns as Frank Moses, the retired CIA assassin whose relationship with a nice Kansas oddball (Mary-Louise Parker, mugging up an enjoyable storm) is tested by Frank getting pulled back into the script’s notion of morally justifiable homicide.

Also from the first RED, we have Frank’s spy pals Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren, who gets to shoot pistols in two directions simultaneously out of a spinning car). Brian Cox is back, briefly, as the roguish Russian arms dealer with a thing for women of a certain age who look like Helen Mirren. 

Without much in the way of style, director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest, the Fun With Dick and Jane remake) fulfills his medium-budget assignment, trying to make it look as if RED 2 were filmed extensively (as opposed to minimally) in cities such as Paris, London and Moscow. The plot has something to do with a doomsday device threatening Moscow’s existence and the daffy Cold War-era scientist (Anthony Hopkins, who seems rightly perplexed at the film’s jocular way of piling up corpses) who holds the key to the resolution. The resolution in question is capped by a major character uttering a variation on the line “I didn’t see that coming,” although most in the audience will have, in fact, seen it coming.

RED 2 isn’t a slovenly mess, the way the most recent Die Hard sequel was. Parker and Malkovich wring some laughs out of wisecracks that meet but do not exceed expectations. The movie’s adequate. That’s not much. And I admit to some uneasiness regarding the jokes referring to the gun-craziness of American culture and its most conspicuous exports, RED 2 being the latest.

Red 2 (PG-13) ★★✩✩✩

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