Movie Review: 'Red 2' (2013)

‘Red 2’ is the follow-up to the 2010 surprise hit, ‘Red’. The sequel finds the original ensemble re-teaming along with some new cast additions and a new director, Dean Parisot (taking over for Robert Schwentke). This is one of those rare sequels that hits the mark of being equal to its predecessor. That is largely thanks to the return of screenwriting duo, Jon and Erich Hoeber.

They have successfully maintained all of the snappy repartee, flashy action and bitingly dark humor of the first. Going into the first ‘Red’, personal expectations were low and with the sequel they were raised so managing to equal the first is a huge achievement.

This film finds the R.E.D. team reuniting for a journey that will take them around the world as they try to locate a transportable nuclear weapon. The momentum of the plot is kept exciting and like most spy thrillers; it gives audiences the opportunity to see foreign lands without having to leave their seats.

The cinematography is pleasant on the eye and the comic book graphics help to remind viewers that the ‘Red’ franchise is based on graphic novels. It is from its comic roots that ‘Red’ maintains an edge that keeps it from falling into senile repetition. There are a few gimmicks that could’ve gotten tiresome that for whatever reason, play well, long-term without getting old.

The performances of the cast were all top drawer. No one phoned it in. Bruce Willis was doing Willis. Helen Mirren nailed it once again as classy assassin, Victoria. Mary Louise-Parker turns in a thoughtfully zany performance as Willis’ character, Frank Moses’ girlfriend, Sarah. She rises above the run of the mill girlfriend role this could’ve been in lesser hands instead, giving a fully realized characterization.

She shows impressive stamina from beginning to end, giving consistent energy behind every wide-eyed expression and snarky comeback.  John Malkovich is a scene stealer using his quirky comedic timing to great effect. Catherine Zeta-Jones, unfortunately, does nothing more than strut and behave like the cat that ate the canary.

Neil McDonough gives a well executed sinister turn. Sir Anthony Hopkins shines in a spiffy turn that elevates the movie. One of the biggest highlights of the film comes in the multi-versatile performance of Byung-hun Lee (The Good, the Bad, the Weird) as Han. He is past exceptional, delivering the best action sequences of the movie. We can hope to see much more of him in the future.

This is a fun, popcorn movie. Based on quality, the box office haul should’ve better reflected that. For those leery to see it, due to the lack of box office performance, I can assure you that it is in no way a proper reflection of the film’s quality because that isn’t what has held it back from box office domination.

One of the things that had made the first so successful was that it had been a fall/winter release and during that time period there is less competition and even less, in terms of similar genre fare. With this one being a summer release it kind of got lost in the fray. ‘Red 2’ is a cool adventure that serves as a throwback to the movie its stars once made with more prevalence. Rating: 7.5/10

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