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Movie Review: “RED 2″

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I have to be honest with everybody. When I first heard that they were coming out with a “RED 2,” my first reaction wasn’t exactly, “WHEN is it coming out?” Or, “WHERE can I see it?”

It was more like, “WHY in the wide, wide world of sports are they making

Movie poster for "RED 2"

The whole gang is here.

this film? I didn’t ask for it. So, who did?”

So, I did some research and realized that the first film, the appropriately-named “Red,” actually managed to make money at the box office - $90 million domestically and almost $200 million worldwide.

Now, I see why they made a sequel to the 2010, spy vs. spy romp that starred a slew of top-flight actors in the golden years of their careers. Basically, the first film was like a Mission: Impossible for the AARP set.

“RED 2,” except for a few minor cast changes (like no Morgan Freeman - who went to double-0-heaven in the first film), is really not that different from the first film. It still focuses on the Frank Moses (played by Bruce Willis in typical Bruce Willis-fashion), the former black-ops agent from the CIA, whose status from the first film (which is loosely taken from a small, obscure comic book of the same name from the DC Comics off-shoot, Homage  and written by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner) is the basis for the title: “Retired, Extremely Dangerous.” Get it? R-E-D.

Anyway, in the opening scene of “RED 2” (directed by Dean Parisot of “Galaxy Quest” fame) we see that Frank is now an exclusive relationship with Sarah, who was the object of his affection in the first film. Sarah (played by a smug, sarcastic and scene-stealing  Mary-Louise Parker) is bored and restless and misses the spontaneous and unpredictable that Frank inadvertently-introduced her to in the first film – when he was protecting her from relentless CIA agents and ruthless trained assassins, while simultaneously courting her. Now, instead of running for their lives down back alleyways, the two of them travel through Costco searching for jumbo shrimp and power-washers.

During one of their routine shopping excursions, Frank runs into his old friend

Bruce Wilis, Mary-Louise Parker and John Malkovich in "RED 2"

“Come and knock on our door…”

and partner – the paranoid sociopath Marvin (portrayed in over-the-top fashion by John Malkovich, who, by the looks of things, never had more fun playing a role in his whole career). Marvin tells Frank that people are out to get them. To which Frank replies, “You always think someone’s out to get you, Marvin.”

Frank brushes it off, they go their separate ways, and Marvin’s SUV explodes as he’s leaving the parking lot. Yes, you read that right. One of the main characters in the film dies within the first five minutes of the film. Of course, Marvin isn’t really gone for good – he faked his own death – which Frank tries to prove at the funeral, because, apparently, Marvin does this all the time, too. Much to Frank’s dismay, Marvin continues his little possum-play and as Frank leaves the funeral, he’s picked up by Interpol and taken in for questioning.

Allegedly, Frank AND Marvin’s names are mentioned in a secret document regarding something called Nightshade, which, of course, Frank sincerely knows nothing about. As Frank is handcuffed in an interrogation room, a dangerous agent named Jack Horton (played by the intense, steel-jawed Neal McDonough) and his soldier boys are shooting their way through the offices and towards their target, who is… you guessed it… Frank.

So starts the action-packed, globe-trotting journey that is “RED 2.” Actually, as I’m reading this recap of the film’s premise, it doesn’t look that bad… on paper, that is. On film, it’s a whole different story. I mean, it has multiple exotic locales, as the action goes from Hong Kong to Paris to London to Moscow- even though most of the film was shot in not-so-distant Montreal. It has expertly-choreographed fight scenes and stunt-filled car chases through European (wink-wink) cities. It’s just missing something… originality.

Although, “RED 2” has all the exciting elements that constitute an entertaining entry into the action genre, it’s – how do I put this – just plain boring. The script by the brotherly duo of Jon and Erich Hoeber (who also wrote the screenplay for “RED”) is full of clichés and predictable plot lines. The score by the usually-solid Alan Silvestri is warped and misled. Some of the newly-introduced characters are processed and one-dimensional like Russian agent and “Frank’s Kryptonite,” Katja (an underwhelming Catherine Zeta-Jones) and the Korean, kung-fu assassin Han Cho Bai (the ridiculously-ripped Byung-hun Lee), who does kill a guy with an unfolded piece of origami after being strip-searched, but ends up saying, “Dee plane, boss! Dee plane!” more often than Tattoo (trust me, when you see it, you’ll understand).

It’s not all bad, though. Helen Mirren does a kick-ass job as British, wet works

Byung-hun Lee and Helen Mirren in "RED 2"

“No, I don’t want to super-size anything. Now, give me my Number 3 and my change and no one will get hurt. Cheerio.”

operative and associate/friend of Frank and Marvin, Victoria – who actually ends up hired to kill them. Does she take the job? You’ll just have to wait and see. And Professor Lupin, himself - David Thewlis - is great in a small cameo as The Frog, an information dealer who loves the bouquet of a rare, expensive wine and got his name by tainting the Kremlin’s water supply by using only a poisonous tree frog. See, that’s kind of creative. Why couldn’t we have more stuff like that?

Then we get to Anthony Hopkins and his role of the locked-up loony, Dr. Edward Bradley. This character starts out on the right track, as seems a tad off-his-rocker and it’s fun to see Hopkins go bat-shit crazy every once in a while. Nevertheless, by the end of the film, the character transforms into a mish-mash of “jolly goods” and “good shows” and a bunch of other generic British adages.

I haven’t even touched the WHAT yet – aka the plot, which has something to do with that aforementioned Nightshade fiasco and some Cold War bomb that Dr. Bradley made, which is constructed out of the mythical red mercury.

Whatever. I’m sorry to say it, but the only concern I had, was the HOW. As in – HOW much longer is this movie gonna go on for?

Nonetheless, being that the first one made so much sweet, box-office cash, I’m pretty sure they’re expecting big things from “RED 2.” In fact, I know they are.

They’ve already announced that, even before “RED 2” has hit the big screen, “RED 3” is in the works, according to IMDb If that’s the case, I’m putting in a request for Woody Allen to go back to his “Casino Royale” roots and play a super-spy in the next one. If he’s in it, I MIGHT go see it.

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