RED 2


Year 2013

Looking in Vain for a Cash Cow:

Bruce Willis as  Frank Moses
Mary-Louise Parker as Sarah Ross
John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs
Brian Cox as Ivan Simonov  
Anthony Hopkins as Bailey
Helen Mirren as Victoria
Byung-hun Lee as   Han Cho Bai
Catherine Zeta-Jones   as Katja
Neal McDonough as Jack Horton
 
Director - Dean Parisot
Screenwriters - Jon Hoeber
  - Erich Hoeber
Comic Book Writers   - Warren Ellis
  - Cully Hamner

This is a sequel to the original movie entitled, simply enough, RED. The original was, and still is, a guilty pleasure of mine. This one lacks all of the charm, pathos, and coherence of the original.

At first, I was just going to put this one in the "Under a Rock" category. But then I read the criteria for being "Nasty" and this one qualifies. Just barely, but it does. It distorts historical events for commercial purposes. Primarily, this is a mistake made for Doctor Bailey (Hopkins). He's been incarcerated for thirty-two years, ever since 1980. But yet he developed the Neutron Bomb. This was actually developed by Sam Cohen. "So," you say, "Bailey's a combination of scientists." Fair enough. Doctor Bailey was incarcerated before the United States developed its neutron bomb. So, no, Doctor Bailey could not have developed it. (It could be argued that Professor Bailey was free when the W70 warhead was invented and THAT and not the bomb itself is what's being referred to. But the movie doesn't even intimate the distinction.)

There are similar niggling things about who did what when. But it means that RED 2 can be flagged for playing fast and loose with history for the sake of a (bad) story. (I've seen an interview with Samuel T. Cohen. He was a character and deserves better.)

Either Han Cho Bai (Lee) has the mutant power of being able to manipulate matter or the laws of physics within the movie vary from moment to moment. In one scene, Han takes a photograph, folds it into an origami claymore complete with a pointed crossguard, and stabs someone with it. I've heard of paper cuts, but folding a thick photograph in such a way that it has a sharp point and two sharp edges is not possible.

Neither is Han's fight while he's handcuffed to a sliding glass display door. He pulls the door off of its track and in poor Jackie Chan style, uses the door as a weapon. The glass appears unbreakable. So far so good, if a little too silly to believe. I believe that the glass may also be bullet proof. Until the end, that is. At the end of the fight, Han places the door between himself and an aversary and headbutts the opponent through the glass. Two minutes prior, the glass was unbreakable. Now Han can headbutt his way through the glass with enough force to knock out the person on the side. Either it is shatterproof or it isn't. Make up your mind!

What was the point to making this movie? Entertainment? Or just milking a perceived cash cow? New director, new score, and pull in some other big name stars who add nothing to the plot. It's just kind of thrown together.

Here's the plot of the movie. A group of retired government operatives are mentioned on-line as being implicated in a project named "Nightshade". Nightshade was a successful attempt to assemble a nuclear device in Moscow. Sometimes people want to interrogate the retirees and sometimes they want to kill them. Usually, the latter. There is no real reason why anyone really cares about these people. They have no clue about Nightshade except that it was the name of an assignment.

But now, they're being chased around the world and they've got to find out the secret of Nightshade or die trying. Add to this something about Frank (Willis) and Sarah (Parker) not getting along as a couple because he wants to protect her from danger and she's seeking adventure.

In some respects, this movie is The Whole Ten Yards (Frank wants to be domestic) crossed with Oceans 12 (showcase for actors not adding to the plot). Both of these were loser movies and RED 2 is a sequel cut from the same cloth of nonsense.

Things in the first movie that are missing from this one:

The score by Christophe Beck in RED managed to capture the tongue-in-cheek point of view of the movie. I can still hear some of the music in my head as I write this. RED 2? Generic background babble.

In the first movie, whenever Frank Moses went to a new city, there'd be a postcard saying, "Greeting from <insert city name>". Not so in this one. In this one, the frame freezes, someone gets turned into a red colored drawing, and then the name of the new city is shown. It lacks panache.

In the first movie, there's a lot of violence. Frank dispatches some killers early and his house is shredded. But in other scenes, every attempt is made to avoid killing anyone. In this movie, the body count exceeds that of the first movie in the first ten minutes.

Which leads us to the explosions. Every five minutes something goes bang. Grenades, guns, cars, and planes all go boom. For no reason. Seriously. Why does Han use a chaingun (or is it a minigun?) to attempt to kill Frank? In one scene, Han is in New Jersey and his personal jet has been stolen along with all of his toys. In the next, he's in Paris (France, that is) with a minigun cutting cars in half. (He's not aiming at Frank, he's cutting cars in half. All Frank has to do is duck and he's safe.) The scene ends with a car being dynamited for no apparent reason.

Explosions also worked pretty much the way they should in RED. In RED 2 there's a new law of physics that says that explosions will never damage anything the heroes need. Break into a computer center by blowing a hole in the wall? Not only is the room empty of people, but not a single piece of debris from the explosion entered the room. If this happened once, it might be forgivable. But it happens over and over again. That minigun thing? Well, Frank explodes a stick of dynamite that sends a car into the air and blows off a manhole cover, but Frank who is right next to the explosion doesn't even lose his hearing.

In the first movie, the team put together an elaborate (perhaps excessively so) scheme to kidnap someone to find out more information. In this movie, blast and shoot substitutes to the detriment of the movie. The team is as subtle as a punch to the face. In fact, in RED 2 torture is allowed so there are many punches to the face. The cavalier attitude towards death and killing makes this movie distasteful.

In the first movie, the team had the invisible enemy of high-tech monitoring to content with. Here, it does not really play a part. Oh, in one instance Frank baits Han using technology, but there's nothing like satellite surveillance or government agencies tracking through the internet.

And in RED 2 all of the enemies are all crackpots. Government agents for the US and the UK kill people like we shoo away flies. Of course, there are no consequences. Even Professor Bailey thinks nothing of killing people.

Let me discuss Professor Bailey for a second here. He's a genious who, in this alternate reality, invented potent nerve gasses, neutron bombs, and "red mercury". (Is that a type of car?) Real red mercury is colorless and odorless and its role in nuclear bombs is a hoax. In the movie, it's red fruit punch. Anyway, in one scene dodderly old Professor Bailey holds a gun to Sarah's head threatening her. At any other time in the movie, this would have meant nothing. Frank would have handled it without breaking a sweat. Suddenly, he's incapacited and can't act. Neither can anyone else on the team. Then later there's some mention about Bailey losing his wife and child but with no further explanation. Somehow this loss was his motivation, but it's not expanded upon. (Did he just forget where they were?) The main motivation of the plot of the movie is tossed out and left to be sniffed at by stray dogs.

Weird scenes include the one where Victoria, in the nick of time, saves an about to executed Frank with her sharpshooting skills. (There are lots of contrived and absurd nick of time scenes.) For some reason, she takes off her boots to do this and Ivan loves the way her toes curl just before she pulls the trigger. What? I mean really. What does this have to do with anything? It's Moscow, in winter, she's lying on her stomach on the frozen ground doing her sharp shooting thing. But first she takes off her boots?

And then there's Katja (Zeta-Jones). Her first appearance is in a Parisian hotel with a contingent of soldiers with their weapons drawn. Really? And what's up the Zeta-Jones' skin color? She has a bad dark tan in the movie. She's less sexy than she is scary.

What's good in the movie? Some of the acting is top notch. But then there's not a lot of range required. Brian Cox, Anthony Hopkins, and John Malkovich are all great. Everyone else is at least good, but the writing makes them squirrelly so it's impossible to feel any empathy with them.

The only thing that kept me from turning the thing off was some of the banter. But even that was sometime painful Here's a scene that shows some clever dialog but it is shoehorned into a scene that is too incredible to be believed. The team enters a Moscow safe house not used since 1984. In the room is a Moon Pie. In Russia, in 1984, I guess that there were Moon Pies for the characters in this movie. You can get Moon Pies in Georgia today, but I don't think anyone ever had a Moon Pie in Russia.


Marvin (Malkovich) opens the package.
Victoria: You're not really going to eat that, are you?.
Marvin: It's okay. It's before food had expiration dates.

Other exchanges that brought a smile include:


Marvin: If there's one thing I know, it's women and covert operations.
Frank: Marvin, that's two things.
Han: No, grasshopper. It is not.

Han: I'm going to enjoy killing him. Get me a gun that really hurts.

Marvin: She has talents you and I will never have.
Frank: What talents?
Marvin: People like her.

If you must watch every Bruce Willis or John Malkovic movie, then you'll watch this. There's profanity and blasphemy and Byung-hun Lee naked from the rear. (Why did I need to see that? Did that make it edgy?) I doubt if there's chick flick potential and there's certainly limited male movie potential unless a few seconds of Byung-hun Lee's butt makes it worthwhile for you. If you liked RED you'll dislike this. If you liked the dreck named Oceans 12 then you might like this effluvium as well.


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