Thursday, August 1, 2013

RED 2 (2013)

**This review contains spoilers**

After the events of RED, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is trying to be normal with his girlfriend, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), leaving his wild days of espionage and military combat behind him. But everything changes, when Frank and Sarah run into Frank’s old buddy and teammate, Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) at a Costco one day. Marvin tries to warn Frank of an inevitable attack, but Frank refuses to listen, because he wants to enjoy his new life without any problems.

Soon enough, Frank is taken into custody to answer some questions about project “Nightshade,” Sarah goes off to a safe house for protection, and Marvin fakes his death after an assassination attempt. During the interrogation, Frank is at the mercy of a cold and vicious US government agent named Jack Horton (Neal McDonough), who takes charge of the questioning after killing everyone guarding Frank. Frank escapes with Marvin‘s help, and Frank eventually joins forces with Marvin and Victoria Winslow (Helen Mirren) to fight off another frame/assassination attempt.

As Frank, Marvin, Victoria, and Sarah travel across the world, they learn more about a devastating weapon of mass destruction, and the man, who built it. Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) has spent years in a London insane asylum for his protection, but after Victoria does some more digging, she learns about Dr. Bailey’s true intentions, and his original plans for the weapon of mass destruction he built.  Frank tries to balance the responsibilities of completing the mission, controlling Sarah’s persistent urges to join the team, and Frank must use his judgement to figure out where Victoria's loyalties lie, after Victoria accepts a contract from MI6 to kill Frank.

Plus, some old feelings for Katya (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a Russian spy, could jeopardize the mission and Frank’s relationship with Sarah. And Frank will have to fight off the attacks from Han (Lee Byung-hun), an old nemesis and a lethal contract killer, who will do anything to collect the bounty on Frank, and recover his private jet plane.

Bruce Willis is still entertaining as the old, grizzled veteran, who reluctantly shows his soft side every now and then. Malkovich is still hilarious as the eccentric loose cannon, and Helen Mirren isn’t bad at all here, but her screen time is cut down to accommodate more focus on Mary-Louise Parker this time around. Parker is still the same accident-prone and nervous goofball, and Sarah has a more involved role with the team. Although, they added this hopeless romantic layer to Parker’s character, and it kind of annoyed me at times. And Brian Cox has a few appearances towards the end, but his screen time is limited to cameo status.

No real complaints about most of the new cast members. In contrast to Helen Mirren’s Victoria, Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Katya is a seductive and lethal femme fatale. I usually can’t stand Neal McDonough, but he’s not bad as this quirky and delighted psychopath. Lee Byung-hun’s Han is limited to sporadic appearances, until he decides to join the good guys at the end, but he’s a nice fit for the lethal killing machine. As far as Anthony Hopkins goes, I’m sorry, but he just annoyed me too much. His kooky old man act is painful to watch. I mean, things get a little better, when Hopkins reveals himself as a bad guy, but still, the heel turn couldn’t save this character.

I’m torn, when it comes to RED2’s erratic plot twists and constant character changes. One one hand, the twists and turns DID hook me into the story, because I can honestly say I had no idea what would happen next most of the time. But on the other hand, it’s kind of hard to ignore the sub-plots, plot twists and character changes convoluting into one big mess.

First of all, the plot starts out with Frank and Marvin trying to figure, who’s setting them up this time, but that eventually evolves into Frank, Victoria (against her orders from MI6), Sarah, Marvin, and Han banding together to stop another lame plot involving a mad man’s mission to set off a bomb and kill millions. And throughout the movie, Han forgets about his contract, and instead, he becomes hell bent on killing Frank for stealing his jet plane. And on top of that, he joins the same guy he’s trying to kill throughout the whole movie to save the day at the end? Han is a contract killer. Why should he care about doing the right thing?

The struggles and bickering in Sarah and Frank’s rocky relationship constantly dilutes every sub-plot, and the main story arc. And if Jack Horton is one of the good guys, then why did he have to kill a high ranking Army General in the beginning? I won’t go on a rant about Hopkins revealing himself as one of the bad guys, because well, they gave that twist away in the trailers and TV spots. Unbelievable. More often than not, it felt like RED 2 was trying to be too clever for its own good. And I believe the efforts to shock and surprise the audience with a lot of unpredictability hurt the film.

So I can understand the complaints about the story and character changes, but the over the top action sequences? Eh, no. For anyone complaining about the action sequences in RED 2, I would just ask one question: do you remember RED (2010)? Do you remember Bruce Willis effortlessly and casually stepping out of a speeding and spinning car, opening the car door (while the car is still spinning), and stepping out to take out the bad guys with a machine gun? How about John Malkovich using a handgun, and ONE bullet to stop a rocket, AND literally blow up the person, who fired the rocket? And let’s not forget about Bruce Willis’ wild and over the top escape from a bunch of armed soldiers during the early stages of the movie. RED 2 promoted high octane and over the top action, and for the most part, they delivered it.

As usual, a part two doesn’t live up to the original, but I still had a good time with RED 2. I know some with take this as blasphemy, but Mary Louise-Parker was a more than suitable replacement for Morgan Freeman. Yeah, it’s hard to ignore some of the problems, and the final showdown between Frank and Dr. Bailey is so disappointing. But RED 2 still provides plenty of mindless fun entertainment and good laughs. I know RED 2 is considered to be a box office flop, but I say bring on RED 3. I remember reading something about plans for RED 3, and I hope those plans aren’t scrapped.

Rating: 6/10

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