'Red' came out of nowhere in 2010, it was a snazzy, knowingly ridiculous, sneaky little military secret agent satire with slam dunk performance from Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. It was perhaps the biggest, most pleasant surprise of that year. Flash forward three years and we have a sequel that is passably fun even if it feels like a rather forced, unwelcome second jaunt.
In 'Red 2' Moses (Willis) is having the worst honeymoon of his life. He is on the run with his new wife (Parker) and the winningly neurotic Boggs (Malkovich) after their friend Victoria (Mirren) warns them that she has been recruited to wipe them out. Also on their trail are a Hong Kong-based super-assassin, half the task force from covert American spy agencies and Russian agents who want to procure some sort of world annihilating chemical bomb. It’s all as fun as it sounds and director Dean Parisot handles the goofy over-the-top stuff with flair. Parisot made the highly underrated Galaxy Quest earlier and his knack of getting a solid cast of dramatic actors together to extract comedy from them is impeccable.
Despite the gratuitous violence and Kung Fu karate, Parisot maintains a humourous tone, without relying on the slapstick or the kitschy. Even though the jokes aren’t new, the gang’s unexpected grasp of timing makes it a worthwhile ride. John Malkovich is as magnetic as ever, rising way over the material. Marie Louie Parker extends her misfit shtick but is given a far more expansive role here. The script smartly uses her to lampoon stereotypical female characters, which exist only as conduits to cinema audiences.
Mirren is terrific once again, wearing a military jacket, brandishing a sub-machine gun and kicking ass, clearly enjoying playing her most fun character.
If there’s one thing the film lacks, it is a reason to exist — because despite the performances, the film feels like a good joke that’s been told one too many times by the same people.
The filmmakers try to cover up the dearth of ingenuity by zooming from one exotic country to another, piling on the eye candy with the urgency to cater to folks with the tiniest attention span. It works, because for those looking to shift their attention to a quick shot of breezy escapist fun, 'Red 2' is a winner.