RED was the sleeper hit of 2010. The well-written action/comedy exceeded expectations both in quality and commercial success. It is little wonder the film was destined to do well with Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Bruce Willis and John Malkovich portraying aging retired CIA, MI6 and KGB operatives. As is the current nature of Hollywood, the sequel was a forgone conclusion. Amazingly all of the fantastic talent returned for the second outing.
RED, along with the Expendables (2010), touched off a type of action film renaissance–not just a renewed appreciation for the genre, but a glow placed on the stars that drove the genre in the 80s and 90s. What differentiates RED is its reliance on those who were often not action stars, and John Malkovich providing high comic relief.
RED2 begins with Bruce Willis’ Frank Moses once again trying to adjust to civilian life. Moses and his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) are experiencing a very realistic relationship issue. Following the events of RED Frank is overly worried about Sarah’s safety, and Sarah has gotten bored with their non action packed lives. After the presumed death of Malkovich’s Marvin, Moses is brought in for questioning about a portable nuclear device the details of which have just been released via Wikileaks. After a fantastic shootout between Moses and various special forces, led by the very capable Neal McDonough, Moses and the not dead Marvin are forced to go on the run in an attempt to clear their names.
Our unlikely team of heroes are joined by Cathrine Zeta-Jones as a former love interest of Moses’ and Anthony Hopkins as the delightfully mad scientist who invented the bomb at the center of the plot. The trail leads them to Paris and Moscow all the our team is stalked by the “worlds greatest assassin” played by Byung-hun Lee.
RED2 explores complex relationships and displays depth even though it doesn’t have to. The action sequences are a tad over the top, so much so that it seems to poke fun at more serious movies in the genre. The new characters and exotic locations are fantastic. Though often accused of phoning it in as of late, Bruce Willis’ performance is one of his best. He conveys a great deal of emotion through facial expression, and seems to show genuine surprise and irritation as he reacts to some of the more ridiculous scenarios.
RED2 doesn’t break any new ground, and it doesn’t need to. What it does has already been done. Where it succeeds is in its acknowledgment of that. Everyone is doing it, but from where I stand, no one is doing it better.