Red 2

July 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker
Directed by: Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”)
Written by: Jon Hoeber (“Red”) and Erich Hoeber (“Red”)

It’s pretty clear the current trend in Hollywood is making sequels. Franchises dominate and most new follow-up entries are surefire ways for studios to make some guaranteed cash. But the existence of “Red 2” is a strange one. The first installment had a decent reception from critics, but the box office numbers were far from impressive. The film only garnering $22.5 million and finishing second on opening weekend and grossed under $100 million domestically. Nonetheless, with sequels as popular as ever before (and whether audiences were clamoring for it or not), “Red 2” has arrived and deserves a little fanfare.

Now retired, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is told by old friend Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) that killers are after then and they need to find a safe place to retreat. Thinking Marvin is just paranoid, Frank would rather just stay put with his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) and get on with life. A quiet life for Frank, however, isn’t in the cards. Soon, Interpol is on their tail thinking they are somehow tied to a nuclear device that has fallen into the wrong hands. Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren returns to the action as Victoria, a contract killer who has been paid to take out her former colleagues.

There’s a palpable sense of fun between cast members. Willis and Parker have great chemistry throughout the film and Willis in particular embraces the loose tone while bringing an appropriate level of action most fans know him for. Perhaps nobody is having more fun than Malkovich, whose paranoid and overly prepared character is easily the best in the film. So much of what Malkovich does is at the very least amusing. At its best, you can see why directors like the Coen brothers and Spike Jonze have cast him in darkly comical roles in the past. Still, it doesn’t all work. The novelty of seeing Mirren fire giant guns has worn off a bit, and the villain characters of the film are worthless.

The biggest struggle “Red 2” has is a fight for tone. At times, the film can strike a nice balance of humor and action, mostly when utilizing its veteran cast. In others, it is far too hokey. Characters like those performed by Brian Cox or Catherine Zeta-Jones are over the top and unfunny when put into context of the film. It’s things like Mirren reaching two arms out of either side of a moving car to fire guns or Cox watching Mirren’s feet as she shoots a gun and smelling her shoes that add a goofy albeit off-putting element.

It’s an interesting concept to see people in their 50s and 60s be able to star and hold their own in an action film. Many of the action scenes work well and are entertaining. Still, its loose tone is both a blessing and a curse. It’s highest moments provide some solid comedy and action (mostly courtesy of Malkovich) while it’s lowest feel like a director trying way too hard. There’s nothing here that is going to amaze viewers, but you could do a lot worse this summer than “Red 2.”

Red

October 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren
Directed by: Robert Schwentke (“The Time Traveler’s Wife”)
Written by: Jon Hoeber (“Whiteout”) and Eric Hoeber (“Whiteout”)

Never mind the swift hand-to-hand combat skills Zoe Saldaña shows off in “The Losers” or the way Angelina Jolie leaps off highways and onto the tops of big rigs in “Salt;” nothing says sexy CIA spy like Dame Helen Mirren playing shoot-’em-up behind a semi-automatic.

In “Red,” an action-comedy adapted from a limited DC Comics series short for “retired, extremely dangerous,” gray hair proves to have a correlation not only with experience and ingenuity, but also an itchy trigger finger when a team of former black-op CIA agents reunite for one last cross-country firearms romp before their Social Security kicks in.

Playing a tough old dude again (most recently in a forgettable “Expendables” cameo), Bruce Willis has a little fight left in him as Frank Moses, the youngest of the retirees who has been spending his free time watching his avocado plant sprout two measly leaves and making excuses to phone flirt with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), the woman who cuts his pension checks.

When Frank becomes the target of a group of hit men, he kidnaps Sarah to ensure her safety (worst way to get a date ever) and rallies his squad of former colleagues, including retirement home resident Joe (Morgan Freeman), paranoid spook Marvin (John Malkovich), and hobbyist/freelance contract killer Victoria (Mirren), to break into CIA headquarters and expose a major political cover-up.

The mission isn’t all that challenging for director Robert Schwentke (“The Time Traveler’s Wife”) and screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber (“Whiteout”), who allow the geezers to come and go as they please with tons of firepower but precious little explanation. More importantly, the script maintains a playful tone and rarely takes any shortcuts by harping on the obvious, like in 2000’s “Space Cowboys,” meaning no jokes about MediCare, wrinkly asses, and drinking Ensure.

Instead, “Red” relies on its talented cast to deliver the shrewd sarcasm and a few far-fetched action sequences that make most of the film so enjoyable. While Freeman and Parker are underutilized for the most part, Malkovich is able to chew up scenery effortlessly (grenade baseball should be an Olympic sport), and Willis gives Die Hard fans reason to expect more yippee-ki-yaying before it’s all said and done.

Sure, comic-book-inspired movies don’t necessarily get better with age, but just because our heroes are on the wrong side of the half-century mark doesn’t mean things have to go downhill fast. With “Red,” it feels good to pump the brakes a bit and revel in the ridiculousness of it all.

This review originally ran in the San Antonio Current Oct. 13, 2010