The Bruce Willis-starring sequel is a passable entertainment, but lacks energy or direction
With its all-star cast, the original 2010 comic book adaptation of Red was a surprise hit, a rare vehicle for an ageing action star (Bruce Willis) that had the arthritic legs to set up a world of retired counter-espionage agents battling it out long after their prime. Dean Parisot‘s sequel attempts to assemble the same mixture, adding Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins and David Thewlis to the mix, but the results fall somewhat flat second time around.
CIA operative Frank Moses (Willis) has settled down to a life of home-making with his spouse Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), but the reappearance of his drug-addled pal Marvin (John Malkovich) pulls him back into action. The publication on a Wikileaks-type website of information about a deadly cold-war weapon called Nightshade draws Frank, Sarah and Marvin to Paris, where old flame Katja (Zeta Jones) helps them tangle with bon viveur and old adversary The Frog (Thewlis). The arrival of gun-toting hit-woman Victoria (Helen Mirren) moves the action to London, where mad-scientist Bailey (Hopkins) has been incarcerated. Sprung from an asylum, Bailey leads his motely team to a showdown in Moscow with hit-man Han (Byung hun Lee).
If it sounds like a ragbag of action tropes, that’s exactly what Red 2 delivers, and the result is as disposable as either entry in the more militaristic The Expendables franchise. Unlike the Fast and Furious films, which have expanded their vision to an enjoyably OTT daftness, Red 2 seems stifled by the weight of its own detailed exposition, and only Hopkins seems to be enjoying himself in the same gleeful way that Mirren did in the previous film.
By dint of its expensive globetrotting production and familiar stars, Red 2 is a passable entertainment, but its lack of energy or direction seems to spell the death-knell for its oldies franchise.
General release from Fri 2 Aug.