The two ‘RED’ films are meant to be fun and funny. They feature several well-known and highly-accomplished actors doing fantastic secret-agent stuff. The first movie was very engaging as it introduced lead characters Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), but it quickly devolved into a tap dance of over-the-top sequences. In that sense, ‘RED 2’ picks up right where the first left off.
As the movie begins, we’re treated to a day in the domestic life of Moses and Ross as they’re mired in a trip to Costco. Within moments, Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) shows up and attempts to convince Frank what Sarah already knows, that their life is boring without any action or killing. As Moses denies this fact that’s perfectly plain to the audience, Boggs likewise warns that, like it or not, action is inbound. What follows for the rest of the movie is roughly: Explosion, goofy comedy scene, random bad guys, interrogation scene, action/comedy scene, etc.
The movie briskly moves from location to location (London, Paris, Moscow, the U.S.) with would-be antagonists or potential allies such as Neal McDonough, Byung-hun Lee, Helen Mirren, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins all showing up and doing funny things before the audience gets more than a moment without either a joke or an action sequence.
The plot revolves around a thirty-year-old operation called “Nightshade” that covers some of the plot points, but pales in importance to Sarah’s attempts to be an operator. After witnessing Katza (Zeta-Jones) blatantly kiss Moses, a large chunk of the movie is punctuated by Sarah’s graceless attempts to exact a reckoning. This leads to a car chase that seems like a near-frame-for-frame rip-off of an early episode of ‘Archer‘.
Frankly, the movie is as fun as it is forgetable. It embraces a formula as though it were the third or fourth sequel instead of the first, and culminates with a car chase almost as pointless and fantastic as anything in the ‘Fast & Furious’ line-up.
And that’s just it. ‘RED 2’ feels like it wants to be a mix between an ‘Ocean’s 14’ and another ‘Fast & Furious’. At one point, Zeta-Jones pulls a 180 in a Porsche 911 while sliding over so Bruce Willis can jump into the driver’s seat without missing a beat. Later on, Hopkins puzzles as to the identity of Papa John as the troupe prepares to use the local Papa John’s to infiltrate the Kremlin.
As long as watching the ensemble cast having fun (and getting paid) is all you expect out of it, then by all means see ‘RED 2’. Just don’t expect it to be too memorable.