out of Five
Running time: 116
RED 2 is a decent enough sequel, thanks to likeable performances from a strong comic cast and a mixture of solid action set-pieces and witty dialogue, but it runs out of steam before the end and lacks emotional depth.
What's it all about?
Directed by Dean Parisot, RED 2 (the acronym stands for Retired Extremely Dangerous, in case you'd forgotten that from three years ago), RED 2 is a sequel to the 2010 thriller that was based on the graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer.
When Marvin (John Malkovich) is apparently killed in a car bomb attack, Frank (Bruce Willis) and Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) are delighted to find him alive and well in one of his hide-outs, but their relief is short-lived when it transpires that they have been targeted by the CIA and MI6, who have both sent ruthless killers on their trail.
Fortunately, one of those contracted killers is ex-colleague Victoria (Helen Mirren), who agrees to help them find out why they've been framed and joins them on a trip to Paris to shake down ex-spy The Frog (David Thewlis). Along the way, they hook up with Russian femme fatale Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones) – who happens to be Frank's ex - and discover that the key to their predicament lies with bonkers nuclear genius Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), who's been hidden away by the British authorities for more than twenty years.
If you enjoyed 2010's RED, then you won't find much to complain about with the sequel as it more or less rehashes the original film's formula of explosions, shoot-outs, car chases and quality wisecracking, only this time throwing in some globe-trotting for good measure.
As with the first film, the winning combination of Willis, Malkovich, Parker and Mirren is the main reason to watch the film, as their constant bickering while dodging bullets, bombs, missiles and so on is highly entertaining, particularly with Hopkins, Zeta-Jones and Byung-hun Lee (as the other assassin on their trail) added to the mix.
Parisot delivers a number of decent action set-pieces and knows his way around a comedy car chase, but the film is curiously devoid of emotion throughout, particularly when it comes to the consequences of the violence – the demise of one cast member passes with barely a flicker, for example. It's also fair to say that the script fails to establish any real stakes this time round (Frank and Sarah are together, so there's not even a romance angle), especially when the characters seem more or less indestructible.
On top of that, the film allows the mother of opportunities to slip through its grasp by having both Hannibal Lecter actors (Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins) share a scene without even so much as a throwaway gag.
RED 2 won't disappoint fans of the first film, but there's a definite sense of coasting and the film's never quite as much fun as it should have been.