Popcorn

red-2-posterThe 2010 movie RED was a bit of a surprise, with its unlikely cast of Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich starring alongside Bruce Willis as action heroes.

It grossed more than $90 million in the United States and more than $186.5 million worldwide, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy).

But do you know anyone who actually saw it? I don’t (aside from other film critics, of course). Which leads me to ask this question …

Who, exactly, asked for a sequel?

Having seen the new film, I have to say I’m less concerned with the answer than with making sure more people check it out.

RED 2 picks up a few months after the original, with retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis), settling in to a quiet life of domesticity with his girlfriend, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). But when Frank is told by best buddy and fellow former operative Marvin (Malkovich) that Interpol wants him dead, Frank, Marvin, and Sarah go on the run.

Truth be told, the plot’s sorta inconsequential. The fun of RED 2, just like in the original, is seeing this group of actors (Mirren is back for the sequel, as is Brian Cox. Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones have also been added to the mix) play assassins, terrorists, and government agents. It’s all a high-concept sight gag — especially seeing someone as distinguished as Mirren playing a badass former sniper who gets to carry some big guns and be a legit double-barreled action star — and a pretty decent one at that.

RED2Directed by Dean Parisot, and with a screenplay by Jon and Erich Hoeber based again on the comic-book series, the film isn’t the most ground-breaking or explosive movie you’ll see this summer, but it makes good use of the cast’s strengths.

Just about everybody here looks like they’re enjoying themselves: Malkovich earns plenty of laughs from his series of ridiculous outfits and amped-up paranoia. Willis gets to play right into his action-comedy sweet spot, more so than he could in the tired Good Day to Die Hard earlier this year. Parker, again, has the most fun of all, playing the only non-operative, who still wants a piece of the action.

And Mirren … Yeah, I’d watch an entire movie where she was the lead action star. This is an actress who never misses an opportunity to make an impression, whether she’s disposing of a corpse in a fancy bathroom, firing a gun while laying on a picnic blanket, or pulling any number of weapons out of a fur coat. Only problem? There should have been more of her.

Is the film a little too long? Sure. Is it conventionally shot and not exactly impressive stylistically? Yes. Does the running gag where nearly every character gives Frank some kind of relationship advice feel like an Ocean’s Thirteen retread? Indeed. But somehow, it all still works.

RED2-helen-mirren-gunsPoint is, RED 2 (the title, by the way, is short for Retired, Extremely Dangerous), surprisingly enough, made me smile almost from start to finish. I enjoyed the entertaining premise a little more than I did the first time around and laughed with the movie, not at it.

In a season when so many movies are unaware of how ridiculous they are, and take themselves a bit too seriously, RED 2 is one film that delights in its unpredictable casting and makes the most of it.

Here’s hoping there’ll be a third RED film some time soon. These characters aren’t ready to fully retire just yet, and surprisingly enough, I’m not done with them either.

This blog post originally appeared on Martin’s Musings.

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