Frank Moses and Sarah Ross (Bruce Willis and Mary-Louise Parker) are living a life of suburban, domestic bliss. He loves it but she is a little bored after being introduced to the exciting world of international intrigue. Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) finds the pair in a Costco and warns Frank of trouble coming. Frank blows him off but watches in the parking lot as Marvin’s car explodes with Marvin in it. Frank speaks at Marvin’s funeral and afterward is detained by several agents who take him in for interrogation where he’s asked about something called Project Nightshade. Before the questioning gets too serious, Jack Horton (Neal McDonough) and several armed men enter the facility and kill all the staff. Horton tells Frank he wants to know everything about Project Nightshade and he will torture Sarah while Frank watches to get the information. Frank is able to escape detention but is cornered in a file room when an explosion takes out a wall revealing a very not-dead Marvin. The pair, along with Sarah who Marvin brought along, escapes and hit the road. Marvin has found out that he and Frank have been declared domestic terrorists and several intelligence organizations around the world are trying to capture and kill them. It all involves a leaked document on the internet detailing Project Nightshade which Marvin informs Frank was a covert operation during the Cold War to smuggle a nuclear bomb into Moscow piece by piece. For some reason, Frank and Marvin have been connected to Nightshade even though they know nothing about it. Expert marksman and assassin Victoria Winters (Helen Mirren) is given the assignment to kill Frank and Marvin by MI-6. She is told a former associate of Frank’s, Han Cho Bai (Lee Byung-hun) has also been contracted to kill him. Frank and Han have some unpleasant history between them, giving Han a particular incentive to make Frank’s death slow and painful. Frank and Marvin believe an information merchant nicknamed The Frog (David Thewlis) is responsible for leaking the document and head to Paris to try and get information. They steal Han’s private jet and arrive in Paris where they are intercepted by Russian secret agent Katja (Katherine Zeta-Jones), with whom Frank had a previous romantic relationship. After a violent chase through the streets of Paris, the group captures The Frog and Sarah surprises the crew by sweet talking their prisoner into giving them a key to his safe deposit box. Inside is the file for Project Nightshade that shows Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), the man responsible for building the Nightshade bomb, is alive and being held in an ultra-secure MI-6 mental hospital for the criminally insane. Heading for London, Frank, Marvin and Sarah run into Victoria who helps them fake their deaths and gets Frank into the hospital where they break Bailey out of his cell. At first, he’s unfocused and doesn’t remember where the bomb was placed in Moscow but eventually remembers it is in the catacombs under the Kremlin. If Frank and Marvin can avoid being killed by nearly every intelligence agency in the world and break through the high security of the Kremlin, they just might be able to save the world from falling into a nuclear nightmare.
It won’t surprise anyone who saw the first film that “RED 2” is stuffed with action scenes, violence and humor. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. They haven’t done anything to fix the winning formula of the first film which earned nearly $200-million. That includes having a somewhat confusing story that is stuffed full of characters played by older actors. It also doesn’t worry at all about explaining where all the money these people would need to carry out this plan comes from or how all the explosives they need are kept so handy and close by. If you think too hard about all the particulars, “RED 2” falls apart into a heap of confusion. That’s why I didn’t trouble myself and just enjoyed the unlikely ride.
All of the cast seem to know and understand their characters very well, even the newcomers like Anthony Hopkins, Lee Byung-hun, Katherine Zeta-Jones and Neal McDonough. The two stand outs are Hopkins and McDonough. Hopkins tends to steal the show when he’s on screen. Aside from being a great actor, he’s also a very convincing and entertaining loon. His Dr. Bailey has been locked away from human contact for so long he seems to want to say everything simultaneously because he’s been saving it up. Hopkins is also able to turn a phrase so expertly that when his character does something unlikable, you don’t really hold it against him. Neal McDonough is excellent at playing a villain who can do the most evil things with a smile on his face. It’s obvious McDonough’s torturer/assassin Jack Horton enjoys dealing out pain and suffering. After all, he’s paid very well to extract information and he’s very good at his job. McDonough has played similar characters on TV and in movies for many years. Even when he’s a good guy, he tends to be a damaged one on the verge of slipping into evil. Perhaps it’s his youthful appearance and his bright blue eyes that tend to make his villains so menacing. It’s difficult to believe someone so friendly looking can be so vile.
As with the first film, much of the humor is derived from John Malkovich and his drug-addled Marvin Boggs. Boggs, at times both clear-headed and befuddled, is able to get a laugh out of something as simple as an unexpected facial expression. He also tries to give relationship advice to Frank as he is able to see the troubles between him and Sarah. Some of it actually makes sense while some is indecipherable. Whenever Malkovice is on screen, the audience can expect something unexpected.
“RED 2” is of course stuffed full of action that kicks off very early and rarely slows down. Lee Byung-hun is a source for the most physical fights, using his martial arts skills to full effect. His moves are so fast and the editing equally so as to make all his battles largely a blur. I would have liked to have seen a slow-motion section or two of his deeds just to enjoy the artistry of his work. Aside from the fist fights, there are numerous shootouts, a fair number of explosions and a couple of car chases through the streets of Paris and London. Action fans are well served in the film and it all looks amazing.
“RED 2” is rated PG-13 for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material. While there are numerous fights, shootings, stabbings and the like, there is very little blood and no gore on display. People tend to walk nearly unhurt from car crashes and plane wrecks. The drug material is mostly mentions of Marvin being dosed with LSD by the CIA for a decade. There are some injections shown but they are not of recreational drugs. Foul language is widely scattered and very mild.
Based on the graphic novel “RED,” this sequel to the 2010 film continues the action, violence and mayhem of the first while also ramping up the humor. It comes off a bit goofy and ridiculous at times plus it ignores plot holes big enough to drive a 747 through but it’s all so much fun you either don’t notice or don’t care.
“RED 2” gets five guitars out of five.
This week, movies run the gamut from superheroes to Shakespeare. Vote for the next movie I see and review.
Girl Most Likely— Imogene is a failed New York playwright awkwardly navigating the transition from Next Big Thing to Last Year's News. After both her career and relationship hit the skids, she's forced to make the humiliating move back home to New Jersey with her eccentric mother and younger brother.
Much Ado About Nothing— Shakespeare's classic comedy is given a contemporary spin in Joss Whedon's film, "Much Ado About Nothing". Shot in just 12 days (and using the original text), the story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick offers a dark, sexy and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love.
The Wolverine— Lured to a Japan he hasn't seen since World War II, century-old mutant Wolverine finds himself in a shadowy realm of yakuza and samurai. Wolverine is pushed to his physical and emotional brink when he is forced to go on the run with a powerful industrialist's daughter and is confronted -- for the first time -- with the prospect of death.
Stan's Choice--Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently playing in theatres or On Demand.
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