Is it possible that a life of routine safety could be the undoing of a once promising relationship? What happens when a dangerous situation puts things into a very different perspective that no one saw coming? That’s part of the premise behind the DVD release of “Red 2,” which followed the mostly intact original cast going after another mysterious villain with secrets and a dark plan. The results may be familiar and somewhat problematic, but the cast made up for it with charm and a willingness to entertain the masses.
“Red 2” followed retired CIA operative Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) who seemingly enjoyed his life of quiet leisure with his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), but they both seemed to be bored with living an ordinary life. Luckily, the arrival their good friend Marvin (John Malkovich) who was also a retired operative and was completely paranoid about everything arrived with the warning that danger would be arriving sooner than he thought. Unfortunately, he was right when Marvin’s car exploded and government agents went after Frank and a few tried to kill him once again. Two assassins were recruited to kill Frank, Marvin and Sarah after they were falsely branded terrorists to cover up the fact that a mysterious nuclear weapon was missing and needed to be found before it fell into the wrong hands. The first assassin was Frank’s former ally Han (Lee Byeong-heon) who had a score to settle with Frank and also loved being paid millions of dollars to be a contract killer. The other assassin was Frank and Marvin’s good friend Victoria (Helen Mirren) who was recruited by MI6 for the job. She took it to help protect Frank and Marvin for a while. While Frank and his friends had to dodge corrupt government officials, they also had to contend with Frank’s deceptive ex-girlfriend Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who was a Russian agent that still had feelings for him after she betrayed him on multiple occasions. The team’s search for the truth led them to a mental institution where Dr. Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) resided for over three decades and he was the only one who truly knew where the nuclear weapon was. Frank decided to let him out of the institution, which led to a series of consequences for everyone involved. Will Frank be able to stop a terrorist attack or die trying?
In terms of plot surprises, “Red 2” delivered a few twists which delivered mixed results in the end. The biggest twist was that Hopkins’ character was revealed to be the movie’s real villain. The moments leading up to the reveal were worth it just to see Mirren’s stunned reaction as she read a file that explained why Hopkins’ character was locked up for so long. She delivered a genuinely look of surprise, but it was the moments that followed that threatened to ruin the moment. Hopkins’ character transformed from mild mannered mental patient into a full fledged psychopath that had no remorse for anything that he did. It wasn’t the fault of Hopkins’ portrayal because he managed to entertain and frighten viewers from going from one extreme to the next. The only problem with making Hopkins the true villain was that the transition was rushed to the point that it literally seemed to happen overnight rather than simply be lurking beneath the surface. The movie should’ve dropped subtle hints along the way to give viewers a hint of what was to come instead of blindsiding them in such a way that the plot twist wasn’t much of a credible one. The other twist involved the transformation of Parker’s Sarah into being more than the girlfriend role as she became the crucial part of an operation when she should’ve been nowhere near a gun. Parker gave it her best effort to make the plot convincing, but the character was better when she was merely Frank’s girl friday than an active player in the story. Of course, the movie managed to still entertain and delivered some wild moments of action and comedy that didn’t fit into any realm of reality; or logic for that matter.
As for breakout performances, Malkovich and Mirren led the pack as the movie’s wild card characters who delivered the movie’s biggest laughs as they often went for broke on more than one scene. They had a unique rapport that managed to make even the most mundane scene work. When the cast was on a plane, Mirren’s Victoria and Malkovich’s Marvin discussed the finer points of making a relationship work in a way that made it funny to watch, especially given the fact that their characters weren’t in functioning ones. Malkovich’s Marvin gave advice to Frank and Sarah on the ready, even though he was a paranoid recluse who would rather be alone with his conspiracy theories than talk to anybody. Mirren’s Victoria was an assassin who had an interesting dynamic with Brian Cox’s Ivan that brought a few light chuckles, but Cox’s screentime was so limited this time around that the scenes barely registerered. It was also a shame that the movie didn’t take more advantage of Cox and Hopkins sharing a brief scene together, because many moviegoers would be fascinated to see how the two actors who played Hannibal Lecter would interact with each other. Let’s hope that they get the chance to do it again someday soon. Malkovich embodied Marvin with the same sense of wild hysteria that made him a hoot to watch in the first movie, but the movie sometimes sidelined him so that Willis’ Frank could focus on his romantic troubles a little too much. Mirren, on the other hand, was able to do much more as the unpredictable Victoria as she got a few fight scenes of her own to contend with. She also was involved in a great car chase shootout was worth seeing to believe, or disbelieve depending on the viewer. Even though the movie had some flaws, it was still enjoyable to watch and worth the possibility of another movie if it was done right.
Verdict: Despite an entertaining premise, the movie suffered from one too many familiar plots and a plot twist that was almost too hard to believe at times.
DVD Score: 3 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: PG-13
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)