See Red and you will see … make that three paradoxes

This film offers up a couple of unexpected albeit unhappy paradoxes. If you’ve seen Red the elder, it’s unlikely you’ll be rushing to see this sequel, unless you’ve since succumbed to Alzheimer’s, had the white cut or perhaps just woken up on an Italian fishing boat with amnesia and two bullets in your back (the resulting confusion would certainly be a distraction from the film’s flaws and might well be the reason why Brian Cox was given a role here too). If you haven’t seen the first, you may inadvertently think the film looks promising, considering the cast of proven stage and screen veterans winking at you enticingly in the shop window. However, if you take the bait, you will then become the victim of two crimes: the first being the film itself, which is as dull as ditchwater, and the second being the filmmakers’ decision to offer no backstory and simply presume the audience has seen the first instalment and knows the characters, their respective histories and relationships to one another. The final paradox comes in the form of wishing you already had Alzheimer’s before you saw the film, as this is the only way of both justifying and surviving the choice.   


Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis) is contentedly living the quiet life with ditsy, gagging-for-action girlfriend Sarah (Parker) when he runs into former spook Marvin (Malkovich) and is once again forced out of retirement in order to track down a missing portable nuclear device. As is the de rigueur with this genre, the characters subsequently spend the duration ping-ponging their way around the globe tracking down clues, getting in and out of deadly situations using increasingly ludicrous means, and shooting holes in everything in sight (especially the plot). 


The bottom line is that this is nothing more than an exploitation of an opportunity: a hastily clobbered together cash cow that only came to fruition due to the surprise success of the original. It also provided an unexpected opportunity for a bunch of ageing British luvvies (Mirren, Cox, Hopkins, Zeta-Jones) to congratulate each other on screen for having made it in Hollywood to such a degree that they too can now cash in on sub-standard, big-budget, generic fodder. This revelation in an action setting is unfortunately also the main source of the film’s comic credentials, but the sight of a bunch of badass thespiatrics hobbling around with guns is simply not amusing enough in itself to carry the film.  

As for Bruce Willis – well, he’s just doing what he’s always done, only with more lethargy and resignation than ever, and it would seem the decision to scribble in Byung-hun Lee as a Korean assassin was made purely to pander to the overseas market, where this type of plastic, bombastic slapstick makes much of its money. Malkovich, at least, seems to be enjoying himself as the churlish brat of the pack, while Russian spy siren Zeta-Jones’s overwhelmingly odd orange spray-on tan and tongue-rollingly jarring accent are so disturbing you may well find yourself cowering and shivering in your seat whenever she appears on screen.


Red 2 (the title stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous) director Parisot and his writing team have taken little inspiration from the dark seediness of the comic book mini-series published in 2003 and instead have settled for a lazy romp that checks off the genre clichés so quickly and randomly that they must have hoped the audience would be too confused and exhausted to notice.  


Red 2 (11)

Dir: Dean Parisot, US action comedy, 2013, 116 mins; Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Byung-hun Lee

Premiered August 8

Playing nationwide