BY ERIN TORRANCE
Pleasantly surprising—that was my very first reaction to Red 2, and it really does sum up exactly what I got from this home video.
One important note before I really plunge into this review: I did not watch the original Red, so I can’t offer a comparison there, other than that the DVD/Blu-Ray cover image for Red 2 seems more fitting to the type of film this is than that of the original Red. Essentially, I’m treating this sequel as its own independent film, which even as I write those words, it seems ridiculous—but that’s my attempt at reviewing this film without bias, or at least a minimum amount of bias, since I always go into a film with some expectations of how it will stack up.
Filed in the “Action Comedy” category, Red 2 picks up with retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and his wife Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) and an overflowing shopping cart at the ever-low-priced Costco. His former partner, Marvin (John Malkovich), appears and warns him that his homemaker life is about to be threatened. Leaving Costco (empty-handed by the way, which is just entirely unrealistic), Marvin’s car explodes. Next scene, we see Marvin in a coffin and Frank jabbing pins into the corpse’s hands, believing that Marvin really isn’t dead. Eventually, he gives up and delivers a eulogy remembering Marvin’s LSD days and bomb-wiring prowess. And then… adventure ensues. (Odd transition, I know, but really, this movie is all about moving fast to dodge, well, death.)
Frank’s super-spy powers are clearly top-notch, even after retirement, so it’s fairly necessary to suspend your sense of disbelief. One example: we don’t know where the hell he gets the chips from when surrounded by shelves and shelves of files, but hey, they make a decent trap.
The combination of character between Sarah and Frank is a perfect balance for humour. Parker’s Sarah is spunky, clumsy, quirky and adventurous—a great contrast to her ex-CIA agent husband. Add in quirky sidekick Marvin, the two assassins out for Frank’s life—Han (Byung-hun Lee) and Victoria (Helen Mirren, who I absolutely love in this film)—and the psychopathic Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), and you have what I consider to be the perfect set of characters for this genre. These roles have been perfectly cast, too.
Clearly, there are some references to the first Red that I didn’t quite understand, but I’m not so sure that it really affected my impressions of this sequel. For example, the line “Karma’s a bitch, Frank” is lost on me, and since I don’t know what that’s referencing, I don’t feel like I missed out—of course, I can’t miss what I don’t know.
Overall, I really liked Red 2. The casting was great, the plot moved along at a good pace, there is a plot, and the humour is amusing. This is another one of those films that I just didn’t expect much from—hence, the “pleasantly surprised” bit.