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Red 2 - Review

Red 2

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE first Red derived a lot of its pleasure from seeing Helen Mirren kick-ass and the likes of Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman strike sparks off each other. It’s sequel delivers more of the same, only more OTT and a little less enjoyable. It’s also missing Freeman but brings in several new heavy hitters instead.

Directed by Dean Parisot, Red 2 is very much a by-the-numbers exercise in genre filmmaking. Yet it can be a lot of fun in spite of it’s ropiness.

The story picks up as Frank Moses (Willis) is attempting to live the quiet life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary Louise Parker), who in turn is pining for some adventure. Enter Marvin (Malkovich), who warns that a contract has been put out on them, prompting a global race against time to find and prevent a nuclear bomb going off in Russia.

En route, there’s stop-offs in Paris and London as well as explosive encounters with a former nemesis turned super assassin (Byung-hun Lee), a Russian military femme fatale (Catherine Zeta Jones) and an eccentric bomb expert (Anthony Hopkins).

Accepting that most sequels operate on the law of diminishing returns, it’s surprising just how well Red 2 comes together. The first third, in particular, is action-packed, nicely subversive and often very amusing.

Malkovich steals a lot of the best moments, Willis recalls his early Die Hard prowess at inventively laying waste to a room full of bad guys, Lee sets up a worthwhile adversary and Neal McDonough (last seen exuding equally ice cold menace in the third season of Justified) creates a potentially memorable psychopath.

There’s also a nifty car chase in Paris (which recalls 007 adventure For Your Eyes Only with its choice of vehicle) and a bone-crunching fist fight between Willis and Lee to enjoy.

Alas, the film can’t quite maintain that early momentum. Zeta Jones’s introduction feels superfluous, Hopkins overdoes the quirky eccentricities, McDonough gets criminally short-changed in terms of his impact and some of the set piece scenarios are utterly absurd. There’s also an uneven tone, that flits from violent death one minute to jokey camaraderie the next.

Fortunately, the whole thing is prevented from going off the rails completely by Malkovich (pitch-perfect to the end) and Mirren (who makes the most of every scene she’s in).

But for all its efforts to impress, Red 2 limps across the finishing line rather than sprinting and, in doing so, tests the durability of yet another Willis franchise.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 116mins
UK Release Date: August 2, 2013