Is this summer of sequels nobody was expecting or asking for? There was Grown Ups 2 a few week ago and now we have Red 2. The difference is that I at least enjoyed Red. I'm struggling trying to remember anything about it though. I had to look up if Morgan Freeman was in it, and even then I still couldn't remember anything about his character or what he did in the film.
Sadly, Red 2 is even more forgettable than Red. The way I feel about Red 2 is the way I feel about a lot of family oriented comedies or TV shows. It's silly and harmless. I'm actually at a loss as to why it was rated PG-13. There's barely a drop of blood in it, and I don't recall any objectionable language. I saw families bringing younger kids with them and nobody seemed to have any issues. All I heard was laughter at the silly humor.
We pick up with Frank (Bruce Willis) and Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) as they are shopping at a Costco. Frank is trying his hardest to have a normal life, but Sarah seems to be a little bored. Marvin (John Malkovich) tracks them down and warns that people are after them again. As they were leaving Costco, Marvin's car explodes, but there's no suspense to this as we're only five minutes into the film and know that Malkovich is in the movie more. It just seemed like pointless misdirection and even in the film nobody is fooled by it.
Also, I had to call B.S. as Frank and Sarah leave Costco empty handed, despite seeing them load up a shopping cart in the previous scene. Nobody leaves Costco empty handed. NOBODY! It's was nothing more than one of many examples of product placement throughout Red 2. There's also Papa John's and probably the most creative use of Pringles I've ever seen on film.
Anyway, Frank is brought in for questioning in his relation to an operation called "Nightshade", but Frank has no recollection of this. During the questioning, a group of people led by Neal McDonough, barge in killing everyone, before Frank gets away. I was still invested at this point as I always seem to enjoy McDonough's performances. He's become one of those delightfully creepy, scenery-chewing actors in the mold of William Fichtner. I love it when you can tell an actor enjoys playing a villain. Unfortunately, he's not given much else to do in the film beyond this point.
The trio hop from place to place trying to figure out what's going on. Besides McDonough, a top contract killer is on their trail, as well as Victoria (Helen Mirren) who is hired by MI6. The contract killer, Han (Byung-hun Lee), was previously screwed over by Frank, so he's extra motivated to kill.
Then, they run into a Russian agent that Frank used to have a relationship with (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and track down an information broker called "The Frog" (David Thewlis). They eventually find out that Nightshade involved smuggling a nuclear bomb into Russia, and was related to a physicist named Dr. Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), who Frank and Marvin used to protect, but believed was killed. Dr. Bailey is actually alive and has been locked away in an asylum for the last thirty years. They break him out to find where the bomb has been hidden. Are you still with me?
Besides the overall silliness, the main problem I had with Red 2 is that the plot is ridiculously convoluted. There wasn't a real need to have a story this all over the place. Simple is fine when you have this many characters and settings. Maybe even trim a few of them to make it easier to follow. This is compounded by having character allegiances that change on a whim, people with unclear motivation, and all kinds of backstabbing. We finally learn that the bomb was actually made out of something called red mercury, which is supposed to be some kind of super weapon, but it's not clear why. They said something about it having minimal fallout, but wouldn't that make it slightly less dangerous or minimize collateral damage? SPOILER - They let the bomb explode at the end and nobody seems too concerned about it, so what was the big deal?
There's another moment at the end where something happens that makes absolutely no sense, and there was no explanation as to how. Wanna know why there was no explanation? Cause it couldn't have happened unless Frank had magical powers. There's no Oceans Eleven type scene that clarified it after. Here's another thing that bugged me. How come bad guys never shoot at the ground? When you start firing into a room at waist or chest level, you have to know the people inside are going to drop to the ground. Maybe all the gunmen could alternate shooting high and low.
I think even the film was worried you might not be following along. They show an establishing shot of The Pentagon and actually bothered to put "The Pentagon" on the screen, as if anyone watching the film wouldn't know that you're looking at The Pentagon or be unfamiliar with the general shape. I kept expecting them to put up other obvious things like "Outside" or "Costco".
I have to blame the script more than the direction. These are the guys (Erich and Jon Hoeber) that wrote the masterpiece that was Battleship, after all. I don't get it, you write a piece of shit like Battleship and they hire you to write more movies? I guess Kevin Smith was right when he said in Hollywood you fail upwards. I actually like director Dean Parisot, as I think he's done some fun movies and shows, and I think that's what he tried to do here. Just keep it fun, and the cast seemed like they were having a good time and playing off each other well. Even Bruce Willis seemed to be enjoying himself more here when compared to his performance in the last Die Hard. There are a few fun action scenes, so it isn't all bad. I didn't even realize this was based on a DC Comics series until I saw their logo at the beginning, and once I realized that I forgave a lot of the cartoony action. I also liked how the scene transitions were done in a drawn, comic book style.
As I've said earlier, the humor of the film is very tame and silly. There are a lot of repeated jokes and gags that weren't really funny in the first place. I will admit that I laughed a few times overall, but I cringed at the bad jokes even more.
Red 2 is a bit of a mess and too silly at times, but it's harmless enough. It tries to get by on a good cast and a few entertaining action scenes, but tonally it's all over the place and just kind of lazy. You'll forget you saw this movie after a few days. I didn't hate it, but I can't recommend it as anything other than a rental.
2 (out of 5) Death Stars