RED 2 - Cinema Review

'Why the Hoebers couldn’t stick to the easy set-up of the first film, instead of over-egging the pudding with unfathomable twists and double-crosses, is anyone’s guess.'

Whilst never anywhere near classic territory, the original RED got by quite sufficiently on the back of its stellar cast and openly fun approach to the generic over-the-top action it presented. Really all RED 2 needed to do to achieve the same level of success was to replicate this feel, and with all the surviving members of Frank Moses’ (Bruce Willis) crew returning it seemed like we were on track for more of the same unchallenging but undeniably enjoyable fare. It’s a real shame then that RED 2 ends up significantly less satisfying than its predecessor.

Director Dean Parisot chiefly fails to retain the same zany tone that Robert Schwenkte captured so pleasingly in the original. Parisot’s action sequences are uninspired, by-the-numbers affairs that could easily be plucked from any number of forgettable popcorn action pictures of recent years. Away from the action, the director feels slightly more successful, but can’t inject enough life into a plot which is forced to contort uncomfortably into knots it clearly neither wants, nor needs to be in.

Writers John and Erich Hoeber return apparently under some illusions of grandeur. RED’s plot was unashamedly episodic, revealing itself at intervals you could almost set your watch by. It was simple, but it kept your interest and got the job done without ever getting in the way of either the cast’s performances or the shooting and explosions. Why the Hoebers couldn’t stick to this easy set-up, instead of over-egging the pudding with unfathomable twists and double-crosses, is anyone’s guess.

When it’s not trying to be too clever for its own good, the script veers wildly in the opposite direction. The characters set up one scenario after another as nigh-on impossible (breaking into the maximum security wing of an asylum for the criminally insane, described as a “prison inside a prison”, for example) before strolling straight through each one without batting an eyelid. It makes the whole thing seem decidedly easy for Moses and company, chipping away at both the film’s credibility and the entertainment it provides.

All of this might be at least partially forgivable if the cast felt like they could be bothered. Willis is only one or two notches above the uninterested autopilot he displayed in A Good Day To Die Hard. John Malkovich’s Marvin is toned down considerably from his infectiously eccentric character in RED to the point of at times feeling like a different character, with Malkovich sleepwalking through RED 2 pretty much from the start. Mary-Louise Parker fares better, but her character again feels homogenised from the original. Only Helen Mirren is on form here, giving a relentlessly fun performance on a par with that seen in the first film; you’ll just wish she had some more screen time. New additions Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins bring little more than a half-baked old flame subplot and a handful of amusing moments respectfully. Byung-hun Lee’s character is entirely redundant.

RED 2 ultimately feels like a sequel most didn’t want, and certainly one nobody needed. It’s never awful but consistently underwhelms. You’ll wish it was more enjoyable for a short while after watching, but to be honest RED 2 is unlikely to make a lasting impression beyond that. At the time of writing the Hoebers have been signed on for a third instalment, which hopefully will return to the simple pleasures of the first, rather than making the same critical errors seen here.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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