Twitter Plot Summary: Frank is thrust back into the spy lifestyle when he’s implicated in a plot to set off a portable nuclear weapon.
Director: Dean Parisot
Key Cast: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta Jones, Neal McDonough, David Thewlis, Brian Cox.
Five Point Summary:
1. Marvin. Funniest movie character in a long time.
2. Bruce Willis seems to be enjoying himself – a far cry from Die Hard 5!
3. Now that’s a big gun. And a stick of dynamite. And France.
4. Mirren + guns = awesome.
5. Yay, a JJ Abrams-style MacGuffin!
Frank (Willis) and Sarah (Parker) are living the domestic life now that Frank has been able to leave his hectic spy life behind him. He’s desperate to protect her whilst she’s desperate to live the action-packed lifestyle. As they shop in Costco Wholesale they’re accosted by Marvin (Malkovich) who asks Frank to help him resolve a problem, whereby they have both been implicated as conspirators during the Cold War to smuggle a nuclear weapon into Moscow. Frank is initially reluctant but is soon drawn into the thick of it, attempting to avoid both Neal McDonough’s government agent and contract killer Han Cho Bai (Lee) who has been hired to kill Frank and his companions.
As you can guess from the blatant signage for Costco, there is a lot of product placement – I wasn’t even aware that Papa John’s pizza were available in Russia. It’s ironic given that they’re readily available in the Birmingham area of the UK yet have hit an invisible wall that prevents them going any further south than Solihull. Just saying.
Of course, the main reason many people enjoyed Red was because it had a number of older actors messing about in an action film. You know, a bit like The Expendables. There’s plenty of that here, with returning actors Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Helen Mirren (and, to a smaller extent, Brian Cox) joined by Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, David Thewlis and Catherine Zeta Jones, who doesn’t seem to be able to pick an accent and stick with it. She’s supposed to be Russian, yet she keeps slipping between American and English between sentences. I know she’s spent a few years over in the States now, but isn’t acting supposed to be all about mastering accents and inhabiting the character? Very confusing.
Malkovich is still the best thing about this franchise, his nutty, paranoid Marvin (so-designed because the government laced him with LSD for 10 years) serves a very strong purpose yet has opportunity to just be completely insane. Compared to his performance in A Good Day To Die Hard, Bruce Willis actually looks like he’s enjoying himself here. Frank’s likeable, has depth and is an indication as to what John McClane should be like nowadays, rather than the shadow of his former self that he has become.
Mirren is similarly excellent as MI6 agent Victoria. She’s excellent in pretty much every role she takes, and to see her as a blase killer who dishes out relationship advice on the telephone whilst dissolving bodies in an acid bath is a juxtaposition that is both funny and scarily possible. Byung-hun Lee is also excellent as the man tasked with hunting down and killing Frank. He’s skilled in martial arts and gets to wield a very big gun. Epic win. Of the remaining cast, Hopkins is delightfully nutty, and Thewlis gets a good couple of scenes as wine loving nasty man The Frog. Brian Cox slips in to offer some support, and whilst very good he isn’t given much to work with.
Many action films live or die on the basis of their action sequences, and Red 2 delivers on all fronts. Not only can you see everything that’s going on, but the combination of direction and choreography balance out nicely. The script is also nicely zingy and full of humour, to the point where the age of the core cast doesn’t even factor into it. The best way to sum up Red 2 is as I stated on my Facebook page immediately after my cinema viewing – it’s vacuous but thoroughly entertaining. It’s certainly not high cinema and it’s not going to be winning any awards, but it’s fun and sometimes that’s all that matters.
Favourite scene: Mirren and Lee causing havoc on the roads and looking effortlessly cool whilst doing so.
Marvin: “If there’s one thing I know, it’s women and covert operations.”
Frank: “Marvin, that’s two things.”
Han Cho Bai: “No, grasshopper. It is not.”
Silly Moment: Helen Mirren pretending to be the Queen so she can get locked up in a mental institute. It still works and it’s a knowing nod to her previous work, but silly nonetheless.