“Sir, you’re tagged Retired Extremely Dangerous.”
Another top secret document (and another pending world crisis) brings Frank Moses out of retirement and into a wild goose chase that leads to old acquaintances, deadly past flames, and new enemies (well, sort of) that prove to be just as deadly as he. RED 2, I’m pleased to report, is still extremely dangerous.
Frank (Bruce Willis) finds himself at odds with having what he wants to be a normal relationship with his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who in turn wants nothing else but to go the opposite route. Nutcase Marvin (John Malkovich) fans the flames of Sarah’s dreams, much to Frank’s chagrin. While trying to figure out how to deal with his new life, Frank gets into the thick of things again as Marvin fakes another death and they start yet another adventure.
It might not be as tightly weaved as the first installment when it comes to the story, and the revelation of the final antagonist was far from mind-blowing and unexpected, but RED 2 follows its prequel closely when it comes to the subtle humor, the imaginative action sequences, and the unique relationships that the characters in the film have with – and against – each other. I would even dare say that in some parts, RED 2 actually outdoes RED: a few more humorous moments, a tad bit more action (plus a nod to the single most out-of-this-world-yet-seemingly plausible stunt pulled in the first movie), and a few new characters.
Of course, each advantage has its own strings attached. Stereotypes and shallow character development naturally plague the relatively short screen times of super-assassin Han (Byung Hun Lee), Russian secret agent-slash-bombshell Katya (Catherine Zeta Jones), and genius WMD inventor Dr. Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), though Hopkins delivered a marvelous performance in character. The film is 115 minutes long but you can’t help but get the sense that it isn’t ever enough to explore in sufficient depth any of the new characters or any decent plot device, for that matter.
Some of the best lines of the film belonged to Han, a new addition to the menagerie of deadly individuals surrounding Frank Moses, and John Malkovich who still effortlessly portrays the insane but weirdly relationship-savvy Marvin. Oddly enough, Han is out of place because though he is no longer a secret agent, he’s not entirely retired either. He kicks ass like the best of them (more than the best of them, really) and even gets to play with “a gun that REALLY hurts.” So I can sort of pardon the patched up inclusion of his character: he ended up being added as Asian flare with the stereotypical kung fu moves.
With the subtly comedic relationships between Frank, Sarah, and Marvin, the conflict brought on by Katya, the simply brilliant portrayal of Dr. Bailey, and the unique action of the film that’s somewhere between nonchalant and redneck, I thoroughly enjoyed the piece. Unfortunately, the main plot, stereotypical characters, and the lack of substance do take their toll on the film. But I’d say I would watch it over The Wolverine if given a choice to see one or the other again.
Well, you don’t really watch films like these for the superbly interwoven, uber complex plot lines. Anyway, my main takeaway from the movie is that the next time someone tells me that women and covert ops are two things, I’ll just reply: “No grasshopper, it is not.” And proceed to take out the entire building with minimal effort.