I’d call the Red franchise "Expendables with geriatrics" if I didn’t know the average age of yester-year action stars in The Expendables is sixty, and that’s when they cleverly hire young blood like Liam Hemsworth to get the number down. Perhaps a better comparison would be "Expendables without as much HGH", or "Expendables with highly respected thespians goofing off and cashing a fat paycheck, plus Bruce Willis".
If you liked the first Red, about a group of Retired Extremely Dangerous (Yeah, yeah, that’s where the title comes from) CIA agents blowing up bad guys half their age while delivering one-liners from the heyday of overblown action films, then you’ll probably like the sequel.
The exploitation of the simple idea that it’s funny to see old people shooting machine guns in slow-motion like a bunch of varicose-veined badasses is presented here exactly as well as it could have been, just like it was in the first film. I’m just as indifferent here as I was the first time around. It gets the job done well enough as popcorn entertainment and gets out of the way.
Look on the bright side; at least it’s not as soul-crushingly dull as A Good Day to Die Hard. If you were looking for the decent Bruce Willis action of the year, pick Red 2 over that embarrassing dud. I don’t even understand why his Red character, Frank Moses, hasn’t been retrofitted into John McClane.
He’s a similar type of indestructible grandpa, perhaps with more practical know-how and a little bit less blue-collar appeal. What if his characters from Red, Die Hard and The Expendables got together to form the action franchise to end all action franchises? Mind… Effectively… Blown.
This time around, Moses, still together with the plucky Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) finds out about a plot to assassinate him and the rest of the Red team, including the kooky Marvin (John Malkovich) and the aptly-named Brit Victoria (Helen Mirren), because of their knowledge of a mysterious thingamajig called The McGuffinator (It’s actually called Nightshade but this fits better). So the team goes country hopping like a bunch of old school James Bonds in search of the device.
There isn’t an attempt by director Dean Parisot or screenwriters Jon and Eric Hoeber to bring the audience who did not see the first film up to speed. They treat the first Red as if it was a box-office smash of Star Wars proportions. Without any re-introductions into the characters, we jump right into the plot.
This can be jarring, even for an audience member like me who have actually seen the first film, albeit only once. It took me a while to recognize that the glossy introduction of the gaudy Russian Ivan (Brian Cox) was indeed supposed to be a welcome for a beloved character from the first Red.
However, the bigger-is-better attitude, where we are treated to more and louder chase, shootout, explosion and fight scenes pays off in keeping the audience awake, even though it wears out its welcome near the end of its overlong running time.
Mary-Louise Parker and John Malkovich’s energetic performances take over Bruce Willis’ single-note approach and keep things afloat until Helen Mirren fully comes back into the picture. Parker is especially good as the overzealous girlfriend who wants a share of the action.
I won’t claim that Red 2 wasn’t fun to watch, but there’s nothing really special here. Waiting for it to come out on home video won’t be the biggest of crimes.