Red 2: Bigger, Louder, Pleasant
Red 2 works very hard to be likable. It is perfect TNT/FX/TBS fare that will have a long shelf life on cable. It breezily travels the globe (Moscow, Paris, London), features John Malkovich in a Carmen Miranda fruit headdress and gives Korean star Byung-hun Lee a suitable vehicle to flex his muscles.
The biggest problem with Red 2 is that it is like every sequel ever made. it is Bigger, louder and heavily populated with character actors. The film packs in Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary Louise-Parker, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Byung-hun Lee, Anthony Hopkins, David Thewlis and Neal McDonough into the two hour running time. Some of these characters are fun (Malkovich, Mirren, Cox, Lee) some are underwritten (Hopkins, Zeta-Jones, Louise Parker) and others are more of the same (Willis, Willis and Willis).
The problem with sequels is that everything gets bigger. Character development gets thrown out of the window and it becomes character embellishment. If a character tic worked in the original it becomes a very loud character trait in the sequel. An example of this is Mary Louise-Parker in Red 2. Her dorkiness was wonderful in the first film but in the sequel is turned up to 11. Her willingness to be in on the action and her jealously of Zeta-Jones are unwarranted. Thus, you are stuck with a very loud plot device who takes away from the characters you like. Her zany moments fuel many chases scenes and set pieces with forced hilarity as opposed to organic laughs. This isn’t Louise-Parker’s fault. She does a great job at what she is given but you can’t shake the memory of how much more likable her character was in the original.
Red 2 focuses on a missing nuclear bomb that will kill millions unless Willis and Co. can disarm it. Along the way many people are killed, Malkovich is cheeky and Byung-hunLee steals the show (he kills a dude with origami). The best moments involve little character scenes like Brian Cox worshiping Helen Mirren as she shoots dozens of soldiers. Tiny moments like this are far more memorable than the huge explosions and car chases that happen every other minute. You want more of Malkovich and Lee giving Willis relationship advice. Watching two trained killers give another trained killer advice about his dorky yet sweet girlfriend is why you are watching the movie.
Action is necessary but should never trump character. Also, Red 2 puts it’s characters in outlandish situations and outfits to get laughs instead of earning the chuckles by building set pieces or interesting dialogue. Take a look at this pic below and you will understand. There is no reason to be in matching outfits other than to create laughs.
In a day and age where ever superhero is morose and brooding it is nice to have a comic book adaption that focuses on having fun. However, Red 2 doesn’t achieve the cohesive charm that the original accomplished. There are moments that make it recommendable but it doesn’t have the wit and charm of the first installment. the lack of likability is a shame because it means we won’t be spending any more time with these characters. Hopefully, it is big overseas so we can get a buddy cop style comedy starring Malkovich, Mirren and Lee.