The surprise 2010 hit “Red” (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) featured Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman as retired CIA Black Ops agents forced back into service when current CIA operatives set out to kill them because they knew too much. The film was clever, the cast terrific, and the sight of 65-year-old Mirren as a cucumber cool assassin was priceless. The film grossed $200 million, so naturally the studio wanted to make a sequel.
If “Red” was a high-octane action-comedy, “Red 2” is definitely unleaded.
This time around, the team is reunited on a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device, invented and squirreled away by a mad scientist (the brilliant Anthony Hopkins). In a nod to current headlines, WikiLeaks has just exposed the old case making the device recovery all the more dangerous. Armed only with their old school skills, they face an army of relentless assassins, ruthless terrorists and power-crazed government officials, all eager to get their hands on the next-generation weapon. The mission takes Frank and his motley crew (minus Freeman, who was killed in the first film) to Paris, London and Moscow (though mostly Toronto, if you know what I mean).
The good news is Willis can still out-smirk everyone, Malkovich is still hysterical as the operative who was given way too much LSD, and Mirren can still kick ass with the best of them. The bad news is the screenplay, written by screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber (who based these movies on the 2003 DC Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner) is just so-so, and the “old folks” jokes that made the first film so successful are nowhere to be found. In short, any actors of any age could have been cast in “Red 2.” Newcomers Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian Super Spy, and Byung-hun Lee (“G.I. Joe”) as a Korean assassin are completely unnecessary as well.
The Bottom Line: Although the senior stars of the 2010 action-comedy can still move at turbo speed, the film just can’t keep up. Despite some solid action sequences and comedic moments, “Red 2″ isn’t worth the price of a bargain matinée movie ticket.
Rated PG-13 (for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material) 1 hour 56 minutes