Red 2 wisely starts with John Malkovich front and center, his character being one of the highlights of the first film. After five minutes though, it’s safe to slip out to the restroom and evacuate your bowels. After all, that’s what’s happening on screen for the next hour. More accurately, the first half of Red 2 is a monotonous montage of cliches, marching along like a metronome, ticking off a series of pointless spy movie tropes with stultifying precision.
Red 2 is the sequel to Red, an entertaining graphic novel adaptation that performed unexpectedly well in theaters. This film offer mores of the same, in fits and starts. Wisely trying to maintain the original’s tongue in cheek tone, supplanting the spy mission with a different scenario, our retired operatives, one by one, find themselves dragged into this new mystery. In a nutshell, Willis’ character is set up to look like he’s trying to acquire a nuclear weapon. The reassembled team attempts to find the bomb, and clear his name.
It’s difficult to pin down why the first half of the film doesn’t work. It could be the timing, the editing, or perhaps boredom of those involved. Malkovich is the only actor who doesn’t seem to be phoning in his performance. Things improve significantly as Anthony Hopkins and Brian Cox swoop in to save the day. Perhaps Hopkins’ acting skills compel everyone to up their game, or maybe it’s Cox’s campy Russian Cyrano livening the mood. Or, it could be the story becomes noticeably more dynamic and unpredictable. Ultimately, it’s likely a combination of the three.
Willis is a much more amiable action star than he was a few months ago in Die Hard 2092, though he still seems a tad bored considering he’s someone with a thing for bombs and the Kremlin. Mirren can do no wrong, and gives an amusing self parody of her now world famous alternate persona. And Byung-hun Lee, brought in for heavy lifting, adds more action where the rest of the cast might strain a hamstring, or just look foolish.
Some sets pieces look excellent, especially during sequences of heavy gunfire, but the fight scenes are very poorly edited, and the camera work is hackneyed. It seemed as if the cameraman was trying to get in close, to allow the viewer to feel like he’s in the fight himself, but ends up being so close as to obscure who was hitting what, where. The edits make some scenes feel interrupted, but likely was done to keep the films running time within appropriate parameters, and stylized comic wipes evoke the source material and legitimize the irreverent tone.
Check out this trailer for a taste of Red 2:
Showtimes and Tickets:
Answers to Pacific Rim Trivia: 1) Beauty and the Beast, 2) George R.R. Martin 3) Game of Thrones, 4) Burn Gorman