RED 2 (12A)

RED 2 is the second helping of the retirees’ action thriller – the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel of shoot-em-ups, if you will. Bruce Willis once again leads the line, surrounded by a bunch of grey-hair thespians in an attempt to chase down a nuclear weapon.

This movie see the return of John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and the ever tiresome Mary Louise Parker.

Frank Moses is forced all-too-willingly out of domestic bliss when his old friend Marvin (John Malkovich) comes asking for help. He soon he finds himself on the trail of a nuclear weapon hidden somewhere in Moscow.

Like the first movie, it’s played for laughs in-between bouts of mayhem; most of the gags are off-target, though Mirren’s gets a pretty good kill ratio.

RED stands for ‘Retired, Extremely Dangerous’, but in RED 2 it presumably means ‘Repetitive, Extremely Dull’. The first RED had lively dialogue and gave fine actors in their 50s and 60s the chance to star in a cheerfully ridiculous action movie. Everyone in it seemed to enjoy the experience, and their high spirits were infectious. RED 2 is louder and bigger than the original, but not better.

The pleasure and pain continue to lie in the sight of good actors slumming it. However, the novelty of
watching Helen Mirren shooting large guns or casually disposing of her victims in an acid bath has worn off and John Malkovich’s wide range of goofy reactions can’t disguise the fact he has hardly anything witty to say.

The sense of talent wasted is particularly oppressive when it comes to the villains. David Thewlis is embarrassingly lousy as a murderous wine snob. Catherine Zeta-Jones is over-the-top, unfunny and apparently dipped in orange wax as a Russian secret agent with a bad fringe.

Anthony Hopkins is frighteningly terrible as a brilliant scientist kept in solitary confinement for 32 years, but who on release embarks on a series of abrupt character changes that make no sense at all. The chief culprit here is atrocious screenwriting by Jon and Erich Hoeber (who also scuppered last year’s disastrous Battleship). Gimmicky visual references to the film’s comic-strip origins serve only to emphasise how boring and old-fashioned the shooting style is.

Like most sequels this summer, it is factory product manufactured for the masses with little or no thought of quality, coherence or meaning. Its existence owes everything to studio accountancy, nothing at all to artistic enterprise.

By Ruth Walker
★☆☆☆☆

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