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Film review: RED 2, from Built For Speed

The novelty of Red was that the gun-totin’, fist-fightin’ action stars, Bruce Willis, John Malcovich and Helen Mirren were all well past 50.  This casting lent some senior-citizen empowerment, sophistication and philosophical reflection to the testosterone-fuelled world of the action movie.  Red was still pretty silly and implausible but it was clever enough to stand out from the usual action movie fodder.  While exciting and funny in places, the inventively named sequel Red 2, feels like a less thrilling re-tread of the first film.

The plot of Red 2 could have been plucked straight from a quirky 1960’s TV spy show, as former government agents Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), Marvin Boggs (John Malcovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) shoot up most of Paris and Moscow in their pursuit of a crazed scientist (Anthony Hopkins) and his sinister doomsday device known as “night shade”.  All the while the trio are themselves pursued by ruthless rogue US agents Neal McDonough (Jack Horton), a glamorous Russian General (Catherine Zeta Jones) and master assassin Han (Byung-Hun Lee).

Disappointingly, the legendary cast fail to deliver performances worthy of their star status.  Bruce Willis is a little more animated here than in recent roles but he is still well below his best. Helen Mirren’s dignified presence is always welcome on screen but her upper-class assassin is a little too stiff and monotone here. John Malcovich, whose character was revealed in the first film to be a guinea pig for LSD experiments, looks disinterested and only seems to have been included for occasional comic relief; at one point he’s inexplicably dressed like Carmen Miranda.  Anthony Hopkins’, with his rich Welsh brogue and restrained sense of menace, is always a treat to watch but he doesn’t exactly overtax himself in the clichéd mad scientist role.  Mary Louise Parker is at first enjoyably kooky as Frank’s girlfriend Sarah but about half way through the film she drops the comical ticks and fades into the background.  Fortunately, Catherine Zeta Jones, despite being stereotyped Russian femme fatale, adds some sass and swagger to the film every time she appears.

With some fluent and dynamic shoot-outs that owe a sizeable debt to John Woo, Red 2 (just) works as an action film.  This is despite the ridiculous sight of heavily-armed, supposedly elite assassins firing thousands of rounds but failing to hit a slow-moving Bruce Willis who’s right in front of the, not to mention moronic henchman lining-up to have the stuffing beaten out of them.  The film is based on a DC comic and despite the violent action it maintains a quirky innocent vibe with no swearing and very little blood.

With its clean, brightly-coloured production design, kinetic action and quirky humour Red 2 recalls the Charlie’s Angels films but with a slightly more coherent plot.

Like the first film, Red 2 is insubstantial, a bit of a lark and not to be taken seriously but it’s stylishly made and despite the cast being on cruise control, it’s generally fun.

 

Nick’s rating: Two and a half stars.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Dean Parisot.

Release date: 25th Aug 2013.

Running time: 116 mins.

 

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