Remember RED? The awkward action comedy from a few years back which saw aging ex-spies battle each other (and a much younger contingent) to prove youth doesn’t always equal ability? Frankly, neither do I, and after sitting through the sorry sequel RED 2, I am pretty sure I have now forgotten almost anything I might have recalled. A trip over to IMDb suggests the film was released in 2010 (really?) and that it starred Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman. It also earned a staggering $200 million at the box office. Naturally, cash always trumps creativity so everyone is back (with the exception of Freeman — his character bit the big one the first time around) to collect their coin and act like idiots.
Indeed, Willis’ character, retired black ops CIA agent Frank Moses is living in semi-seclusion with his irritating gal pal Sarah (Parker). She is desperate to become part of the espionage game. He is concerned for her safety. Malcovich’s Martin Boggs shows up to warn him of impending trouble and within moments the trio becomes the target of the U.S. government and its primary hitman, Jack Horton (Neil McDonough). Seems Moses had something to do with a top secret ’80s nuclear program called Nightshade. When MI6 gets word of the contract, they send their top assassin, the mysterious Victoria (Mirren) as well. Add in a wacky wine connoisseur (David Thewlis), a slick Korean killer (Lee Byung-hun) with a vendetta against Moses, and a crazed old scientist (Anthony Hopkins) who may hold the key to the entire plot and you’ve got narrative — and nonsense — to spare.
As it continually hops around the globe, RED 2 becomes a chore, and not just because it is one of the most poorly directed, awkwardly edited films in recent memory. As a matter of fact, Mamma Mia‘s Phyllida Lloyd should give our misguided man behind the lens, Dean Parisot, a call so they can compare notes of destroying a movie with their lack of legitimate filmmaking competence. It’s hard to believe that this is the same individual who helmed Galaxy Quest, or won an Oscar for his short film starring Steven Wright. Instead, Parisot’s work here is horrid, a jumbled mess of incoherent scenes, poor comic timing, and a lack of real creative control. Since everyone in the cast needs their contractually obligated star moment, we get pointless sequences where Parker plays vamp, where Malkovich masters being a malcontent, and Lee chops up an entire Russian convenience store. Between, these tireless asides and the obvious product placement (Pringles or Papa John’s Pizza, anyone?) the narrative is drained of any potential power.
Even worse, the cast knows this is a stinker, a reboot to a wannabe series that no one really cares about. Oh sure, the audience will show up and see something in this idiocy to make their own life feel less desperate, but for the most part, it’s a false promise. There is little entertainment value here, just jumbled minutes of well-paid performers playing possum with plausibility. Willis and Malkovich can be targeted by a weapon spewing hundreds of rounds of ammo per second, and while every car, structure, and statue around them can be destroyed, they barely warrant a scratch. Catherine Zeta-Jones can show up as a Russian counterintelligence agent and yet no one thinks to ask her about her just-back-from-vacation tan. Only Lee and McDonough are acceptable, while everyone else warrants severe punishment (including that crime against damsels in distress, Ms. Parker).
When the best part of your proposed summer tentpole is the moment when both of the actors who played Hannibal Lecter appear together onscreen, you’re reaching for reasons to care. RED 2 shouldn’t exist, but since it does, let’s just ignore. It’s as forgettable as the first film, maybe even more so.