Retreading, Extremely Dull; ‘RED 2’ (2013).

2 Aug

RED 2 posterThe original RED is a great film. Aside from the star-studded ensemble cast and boisterous script, what solidifies that film’s reputation as an above-par action flick is its lightness of tone. From the tirade of gritty superhero reboots to the countless films centred on the total annihilation of Earth, action movies have been rather dour and noticeably pessimistic recently.

Much its predecessor, RED 2 is a quirky, tongue-in-cheek affair that clearly doesn’t take itself, its subject matter, or its audience very seriously. Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is back, though this time he’s settled down with his former pension-giver turned wife Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). However Frank is forced to reinvigorate his former black-ops days by reuniting with fellow operatives Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) to save the world from an atomic bomb, while at the same time evading expert hit man Han (Byung-hun Lee).

RED 2 is clearly a graduate of the Fast & Furious school of thinking, as it abruptly throws any and all notions of realism, physics or continuity out the window for the sake of sheer entertainment. Bullets can rip through cars yet fail to penetrate overturned coffee tables, there’s a ridiculous plot twist roughly every five minutes and ludicrously mismatched fights always end in the lone man’s favour, rather than the fifteen henchmen he’s fighting. Like Vin Diesel and company, both RED films revel in their nonsensicality; but it’s RED 2 that wins the loony prize.

However it seems that the quirky sense of humour which characterised the original RED was the sacrificial lamb at the altar of silliness. Yes, it’s still bizarrely entertaining watching Dame Helen Mirren be a total badass; yes, John Malkovich is as reliably goofy as ever; yes Bruce Willis still kicks shedloads of ass in every action role he’s in. But the whole affair just feels so by-the-numbers and frankly rather lazy. It’s as if this movie was written by a robot which was programmed solely to write over the top action movie scripts, with the occasional joke thrown in.

Don't believe the tagline; the best are INDEED resting. Fast asleep, even.

Don’t believe the tagline; the best are INDEED resting. Fast asleep, even.

John Malkovich is quoted as saying that he only does these movies (the former RED included) for the resulting paycheque and it really shows. The veteran cast could do what they do in their sleep, and I’m not wholly convinced that all of them were awake during filming. Catherine Zeta-Jones shows up for next to no reason, and none of the baddies are even slightly menacing. The leads are all fine. They do what’s expected of them and nothing more; though again it’s undeniably refreshing to see Helen Mirren beat people up.

RED 2 is still an entertaining evening at the cinema, yet is undoubtedly a marked regression from its predecessor. A real shame…

Simon says: imagine a follow-up to The Big Red One instead? A man can dream.

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