After the success of 2010’s RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous) a sequel was an inevitability and so RED 2 is about as subtle as a freight train plowing through a snow drift. So it’s a case of putting the band back together once more for some curmudgeonly folks showing younger whippersnappers how you kill people ‘old school’.
With Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) happily living the quiet life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker) he’s not best pleased when former colleague Marvin (John Malkovich) turns up informing him that they’re being framed for a covert operation called Nightshade. With the CIA trying to kill them, not to mention former MI5 agent Victoria (Helen Mirren) also gunning for them, Frank et al do a bit of digging, a bit of globe trotting and discover Nightshade is a weapon designed by insane scientist Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) whose memory about where he hid it is a little fuzzy. Throw in a vengeful Korean hitman called Han (Byung-hun Lee) and Frank’s ex-fling Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and these OAPs have got their hands full.
While Sly Stallone and his Expendables spend their time spraying enough testosterone to fertilise a small herd of cattle, the RED team are much more interested in chemistry and banter. The interactions between these pensioners is always fun. It’s hard not to have a smile on your face when Mirren is prancing around a mental asylum pretending to be The Queen, or Hopkins is locked up in a padded cell playing an eccentric old fart. Even Willis seems to enjoy playing the most grumpy version of himself while Malkovich, as with the first film, gets to quietly steal the show with his outlandishly over-the-top ways. The fun all are having is infectious.
It does mean the set-pieces, which consist mostly of CGI-ing the stars into fast moving vehicles, rarely offer anything resembling genuine thrills but it’s more about the laughs to be had along the way. The plot is of little matter, it tries to take twists and turns but there’s nothing you don’t see coming, while the direction, from Fun With Dick And Jane director Dean Parisot feels bordering on made for TV. But despite these flaws you come back to the characters who, unlike most modern action heroes, have warmth and humour to burn.
Offering little more than the first film did RED 2 is nonetheless an entertaining film to fill the dark and gloomy nights, suffice to say the RED team will hopefully not be put out to pasture just yet.