Red 2 is fast, fun, and dumb, living up to expectations set from the first one but never striving to be anything more than perfectly mediocre. Seeing the film a few weeks ago, I was struck by its enjoyability in being a stupid action comedy, yet the more I let it simmer, the less positive things I have to say about the film. That isn’t meant to discredit the film’s entertaining scenes, of which there are quite a few: Lee’s fight scene in the film’s middle in a convenience store is breathtakingly impressive and beautifully shot, much like most of the action in the film. The filler, however, which includes some spectacularly bland dialogue, leaves a lot to be desired. That’s where a lot of the film lies, though, in its contentment with being predictable and far too similar to the original. What worked in the first film still does, it just feels past its prime.
The movie follows the “retired but extremely dangerous” (R.E.D.) agents that we met in the first film, which include Frank (Bruce Willis), Marvin (John Malkovich), and Victoria (Helen Mirren), and then Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who remains the wonderfully oblivious connection for the audience. This time, they’re being chased down for something they didn’t do; it’s rudimentary stuff, allowing them to sprawl the globe in what can only be seen as an attempt to cash in on worldwide grosses. The movie travels to France, Russia, England, the U.S., Hong Kong, and probably some others I’m forgetting. That allows for the film to be zippy and spontaneous, but the editing also makes the story a bit disjointed.
Character motivations are often not explored, and the attempt at including Catherine Zeta-Jones for a love triangle with Frank and Sarah never feels convincing. Hopkins is good in his underwritten role, acting as the villain in the vaguest way possible; his intentions are barely explained but feel insincere. And the film’s final acts includes a few nonsensical developments, one of which involves the placement of the bomb, that legitimately doesn’t work. The highlight of the film is Lee, playing Han with a fierce commitment that allows for him to impress not only with his moves, but his sly charm. He seems to be the only one really trying, while everyone else is phoning it in. It’s a shame considering the empty entertainment the film can provide.
Grade: ★★½ (out of 5)