The question has to be asked. Seriously, was anyone really waiting for a summer sequel to the 2010 thriller RED? Admittedly, it was a hit, but it wasn’t that much of a hit and neither was it particularly good. RED was one of those films that sounded better when explaining the idea, but actually sitting through the whole thing was another matter. And now, seemingly out of nowhere is the sequel, RED 2.
For those who have forgotten, or perhaps for those who never knew, RED is an acronym for Retired but Extremely Dangerous. A group of friends who were once governmental killers are trying to enjoy retirement but for one reason or another their past keeps coming back to haunt them and they’re continually dragged back into the game.
In RED 2, Frank (Bruce Willis) is doing his best to be domesticated and live a relatively normal life with his girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker), but his friend from the killing business, Marvin (John Malkovich) keeps trying to warn him that there are all kinds of agents out there still after him, mostly for reasons that are never altogether clear. And that’s the problem with RED 2; nothing, and I mean nothing is ever quite clear.
There are government agents, retired assassins, even Russian spies, and they’re all trotting around the globe, chasing each other and murdering any innocent by-stander who happens to get in their way. After awhile it becomes difficult to fully comprehend who is chasing who, why and where. Of course, the whole thing is pure hokum, but it’s incoherent hokum; you can never tell who’s working for whom. Plus it’s never quite clear who is supposed to be the good guys or the bad guys; they keep changing sides and allegiances. The truth is, considering what all of these people do for a living is killing, they’re all reprehensible, even the collective REDs of the title, and they’re supposed to be the heroes.
To be fair, the film starts well. There’s something fun about seeing actors like Willis, Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins all in the same film and there’s a good tongue-in-cheek feel to much of the initial dialog. “You haven’t killed anyone in months,” Malkovich states to Willis as if the cardinal sin of an assassin is not to keep killing. When Willis attends the funeral of a fellow killer, the best he can say to the congregation is “He was a good shot.” Plus when Malkovich hands Parker a weapon, Willis exclaims, “You gave her a gun?” “This is America,” Malkovich responds.
Then there’s the matter of product placement. Up until now, one of the most blatant charges of obvious advertising was James Bond’s gratuitous reference to his Rolex in Casino Royale. RED 2 has it beat. “Who’s Papa John?” Anthony Hopkins asks for no particular reason as he approaches the famous pizza parlor with its brand name prominently displayed in the center of the screen in bright letters. And in case you missed the not so unsubtle reference, one of the young employees angles his pizza ball cap long enough for us to read that Papa Johns pizza has the best ingredients.
This is the kind of film that looks good in clips, as in a trailer, but the collective whole borders on obnoxious. It’s a mess.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 116 minutes Overall Rating: 5 (out of 10)