RED 2 proves to be an unexpectedly entertaining sequel to RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous).
RED was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2010, what with relaxed, amusing performances from Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman and an over-the-top but very engaging turn from John Malkovich.
The underlying theme had some merit too, in that these “put out to pasture’ professionals still had a great deal of worth in them-they just happened to be retired spies caught up in some very nefarious dealings. Naturally the thought of a sequel gave me pause, especially given Willis’ recent track record for sequels (see The Whole Ten Yards or A Good Day to Die Hard-better yet, don’t). In any case, I’m happy to report that while RED 2 lacks the freshness of the original, there is still an abundance of charm and action-with the vital component, the potent chemistry among Willis, Malkovich, Mirren, and Mary-Louise Parker still very much intact.
The plot has something to do with a hit being placed on Willis’ Frank Moses and the globe-trotting efforts of our heroes to keep a weapon of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands (which could be anybody’s). Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones join the not-to-be-taken-seriously hijinks as an imprisoned, daffy scientist who created the weapon and a clever Russian agent (and Willis’ kryptonite) respectively. Brian Cox is also on hand to reprise his role as Mirren’s Russian love interest, while Lee Byung-hun takes out a lot of opponents-and property as a killer with his own private jet (which becomes an important plot point). While action is generally the name of the game, there is still plenty of room for witty banter, especially between a well-teamed Willis and Malkovich, numerous plot twists, and the occasional dollops of romantic advice (which all the leads amusingly offer at times to the reluctant-to-commit Willis). In the end, it’s all very light and extremely lively-furthermore, nothing in summer cinema land can top the sight of Helen Mirren wielding two big guns and taking out the bad guys.
I wanted to like R.I.P.D. (Rest In Peace Department), but it’s a casebook of what can go wrong with a summer blockbuster: exhausting, over-the-top action sequences, bloated running time (I know it’s a little over 90 minutes-but trust me), characters it’s hard to care about, some nonsensical plot devices that don’t even keep true to their own nonsensical logic, and a fatal lack of chemistry between the two protagonists. Ryan Reynolds imparts his own special brand of bland in the lead role of a troubled cop who is killed (by his partner Kevin Bacon, no less) and in the afterlife, winds up as part of the RIPD-a police force dedicated to apprehending “deados’, spirits who have escaped to return to Earth as ultimately monstrous beings. Jeff Bridges is on hand to reprise his Rooster Cogburn portrayal as a cantankerous marshal with the R.I.P.D. who has a love/hate relationship with his new partner Reynolds-or so the script would have you believe. What the audience sees is Bridges shamelessly mugging and over-acting, perhaps to overcompensate for the all-too-human void that is Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds doesn’t bring much to the proceedings besides a vacant stare and a softspokenness that the performer confuses for intensity, so it’s hard to care whether his fallen, partly disgraced character finally redeems himself. Mary-Louise Parker is also on hand, this time as the director of Rest in Peace who may be a little sweet on Bridges. Wait not for the sequel to this stillborn franchise.