In the film – Frank Moses is a retired CIA agent who spends his days quietly in a Cleveland suburb. It seems that his only joy is calling Sarah, who works for the Pension office and talking with her. Suddenly, a hit squad shows up at his house, marking the end of his quiet retirement. He has to go on one last mission – pulling in all of his old co-workers and conspirators; hijinks enuse. Incidentally – RED means Retired: Extremely Dangerous.
The movie was directed by Robert Schwentke and Starred Bruce Willis as Frank Moses, as well as Morgan Freeman, John Malcovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Julian McMahon, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss, Brian Cox, James Remar and Rebecca Pidgeon (in a non-Mamet role!). It was charming and fun. So of course, a sequel was inevitable.
RED 2 is directed by Deal Parisot, and brings back the original cast, and adds a few more members. Frank is again attempting to live the quiet suburban life with Sarah – who seems to be itching for action. Marvin seeks them out to say that they are about to be attacked. Sure enough, they are attacked, and get a call from Victoria, who states that a hit has been put out on them. Something to do with a mission during the cold war to get a nuclear weapon out of Russia, which is still hidden there. They have to collect the clues to hunt down the trail of the one scientist who knows where the device is located. Hijinks and action ensue.
I almost never say this, but I felt like this sequel was better than the original. It seems to have a more consistent tone, the action is almost non-stop and the pacing is better. The story is good, the twists are unexpected, and it really makes for a fun summer movie. Not surprising, Dean Parisot directed another movie with a grumpy cast, but a fun action tone, Galaxy Quest. If you haven’t seen that – you should rent it immediately.
The secret to this movie’s success is the cast. These actors all seem to genuinely enjoy being in this movie, playing these roles – which are all much more action-figure-y than their real personas.
- Bruce Willis once again stars as Frank Moses. He is perfect for this role, and almost seems to be playing a bit of himself. He is quietly confident, and just wants to stay home is his peaceful suburbs. However, when the action does get going, no one is better than Willis at the every-man action star.
- John Malkovich takes some time off from his hobby of singing opera to star as Marvin; the slightly “off” friend of Frank who spends most of the movie giving Frank and Sarah relationship advice. Malkovich is entertaining and weird, and I mean emphasis on the weird.
- Mary-Louise Parker, who really irritated me in the original, is far less annoying in this movie. However, her character is still a little nonsensical and bizarre. She loves Frank, but wants the action, and would prefer that he go back to accepting missions, rather than attempting to just stay quietly at home. She’s thrilled when Marvin shows up, and even more thrilled when she gets to play an active part in some of their covert ops. Honestly, the bit with her going undercover in the Kremlin did crack me up.
- Helen Mirren is fabulous as always as the complete badass MI6 agent Victoria. She’s a killer who loves her work, and still manages to have fun. She’s sassy and spectacular in this role that seems tailor-made for her. There is one sequence where she pretends to be an insane asylum patient who believes she is the queen of England. Pretty hilarious, based solely on the number of times that Helen Mirren has been the queen of England.
- Anthony Hopkins is new to the cast as Professor Bailey, the only one who knows where the device is located. The only problem is that he’s been locked in a loony bin for 30 some years. His performance is slightly crazed, but very smart, and really fun. I’ve never seen Anthony Hopkins look like he was enjoying his role as much as he does in this movie. He always seems a bit stodgy and pretentious, but he really seemed to loosen up for this role.
- Byung-hun Lee continues his quest to be the Korean Matthew McCounaghey in this movie – once again Lautner-ing the hell out of his role. In GIJoe Retaliation, his shirt was off within 60 seconds of his appearance onscreen. In this movie – it’s off within 30 seconds of his appearance. Again – no argument from me, I would like him to continue to try to set new records with that. He plays the ‘greatest contract killer in the world’ who had previous interactions with Frank and the team. He comes into the story and promptly joins in the relation-ship advice-giving mentality. He’s really fun and personable in this and fits right into the cast. His character’s first kill is amazing – and let me just say, it involves a bit of oragami.
- Catherine Zeta-Jones is another new addition. She plays a former KGB agent who had a ‘thing’ with Frank in the past, and steps in to help/hinder the group in this stage. The competitive jibes between her and Sarah are hilarious and fantastic.
- Neal McDonough plays Jack Horton – the CIA agent tasked to go after Frank and Marvin to bring them in – or take them down…whichever. He plays this role with the same zest he plays everything – he always seems to be having a good time. He is always going to be Ensign Hawke to me, and that’s coming from someone who saw him play M. Bison in the Chun-Li movie (that was bad – I can’t recommend it).
- David Thewlis adds to the list of British thespians in this movie. I would imagine that if they keep making these movies, they will start to compete with the Harry Potter movies for the overwhelming amount of British Thespians in them. He plays ‘the frog’, a character that really knows wine – and exists for one chase sequence, and one interrogation scene – both of which are fantastic.
- Brian Cox reprises his role as Ivan the Russian. He’s around to help them get through Moscow, and to flirt with Victoria. He does both of these things with panache, again – looking like he’s having a fantastic time just hanging out.
All in all, this movie surprised me by being some great action – a lot of fun, and a couple of twists I didn’t see coming. It is pretty violent, so not for the kids, and the runtime is just under two hours so it could have been a little shorter. I also have to say that I loved the transitions in this movie, they used bits of the comic, and really fun postcards to change scenes. It was unique and clever. Check it out – maybe rent the first one, then go see this one. I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that it’s a little bit better. Of course, it doesn’t have Morgan Freeman…so there is that.
7 out of 10. Gained points for Lee’s prompt disrobing – I love it. Lost points for Sarah constantly whining about wanting more action. Gained points for everyone giving Frank relationship advice. Lost points for Zeta-Jones’s a little over-the-top va-va-va-vooming. Gained points for the chase sequences, there are some really great car sequences in this. Lost points for no Morgan Freeman.
Bonus Video 1: Harry Potter 3 – Thewlis, Oldman, Spall…really the best of those.
Bonus Video 2: The Chun-Li movie – it’s not good, but I found it entertaining. In which Lui Kang crosses dimensions and teaches Lana Lang to kick ass. Featuring Moon Bloodgood, MCD, Neal McDonough, Chris Kline, Robin Shou and Kristen Kreuk.
Bonus Video 3: Blind Date – remember when Bruce Willis was that TV funny guy from Moonlighting?
Bonus Video 4: Cast Interviews.