“RED 2,” the aptly named sequel to “RED,” is about retired spies from the CIA and Britain’s MI-6. RED stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. It is billed as an action/comedy, but might also be billed as an action/fantasy. It is about retired guys Bruce Willis and John Malkovich, guys who still get to shoot bad guys and in the case of Willis, still get to smooch the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones. Both are very much fantasies of some retired fellas.
We miss the fluid tones of Morgan Freeman from “RED,” but we still have a very strong and entertaining cast. Returnees besides Willis and Malkovich are Helen Mirren, as the retired MI-6 hit woman, and Mary-Louise Parker. Parker plays the wide-eyed (current) girlfriend of the Willis character who is frankly star struck by the violence, gun play and glamour of the spy life. She gets some of the best lines and she makes the most of it. Mirren is very funny as the matter-of-fact to the point of boredom hit woman. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the exotically beautiful Russian agent and ex-girlfriend of the Willis character. Rounding out the excellent cast is Anthony Hopkins who is the insane mastermind with intent on mass destruction. He can chill us and make us laugh in the same sentence, which is not a bad or an easy thing.
Dean Parisot (cult comedy favorite “Galaxy Quest”) directs from a script by Erich and Jon Hoeber. The Hoebers also wrote the first iteration, “RED.” Parisot and the Hoebers deftly thread the needle — being neither too tongue-in-cheek to be exciting (“The Expendables”) nor too graphically violent to be funny (“The Last Stand”). The result is a movie that is just as enjoyable as “RED” and no doubt one that will be just as popular.
Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura has given a decade of moviegoers some 20 films. His output includes all three “Transformers” movies and both GI Joe films. Not all of his large numbers of films have ended in the black, but on balance we must concede that he makes what we want to see. Even some of his clunkers financially have been worth seeing (“Doom,” “Stardust”).
Like most sequels, “RED 2” was at least a tad behind its predecessor, “RED,” but I enjoyed it enough to give it a solid three saw blades. It runs close to two hours at one hour and 56 minutes.
The PG-13 (violence) film had a bloated budget of $84 million but took in only $26 million worldwide on the opening weekend. Lorenzo di Bonaventura must be holding his breath and hoping to see his money come back to him. Producers always take a chance when they make a film taken after a comic book.