As RED 2 begins, the world is on the brink of nuclear disaster. It’s time for the aging heroes of 2010’s sleeper hit, played by Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Brian Cox and Helen Mirren, to swing back into action. Seems that a document alluding to a top-secret weapon has surfaced courtesy of Wikileaks, and the scramble is on to find the weapon.
In a clear case of blowback, the weapon’s existence is related to a notable Cold War-era fuckup perpetrated by ex-CIA agents Frank and Marvin (Willis and Malkovich). With Frank’s spunky younger girlfriend Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) in tow, the trio sprint across continents one step ahead a legion of very angry, very efficient assassins. There are some good jokes and some better violence, along with some swell new characters: Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian general; David Thewlis as an upper-class spy; Lee Byung-hun as a contract killer with a grudge; and Anthony Hopkins as a scientist so dangerous that MI6 has kept him locked up in a jail inside an asylum for 30 years.
The plot twists are fairly clever, and even more rewarding when you think back on the clues director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) leaves along the way. Hopkins is particularly good, which is something to note in this cast of old pros.
The novelty of the premise—late-middle-age/proto-geezers kick ass—took some of the edge off the kill-crazy aspects of the original RED. Here, there isn’t much anything to buffer that fact that, even if they are trying to fix their decades-old mistakes, these are a heartless group of vicious Cold War killers. And yet, the film works as a comedy anyway, in part because the writers elevate one of the characters to the level of Strangelovian monster, and, in a surprisingly emotional moment, kill another off.
If they end up making another installment, I’ll happily buy a ticket and watch Mirren shoot up the joint with automatic weapons again. In the end, RED 2 is just a comic-book movie.