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Movie Review: Red 2

Larry Thomas has a review of the new sequel Red 2, starring Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and an all-star cast.

If you saw the original Red a couple of years ago, which I did and really liked a lot, then here’s all you need to know about Red 2and if you saw, and enjoyed, the original Red  you already know that was Bruce Willis who has refrained from killing anyone, John Malkovich as his loony associate who’s still just as paranoid as before, and the girl is the sinfully delightful Mary-Louise Parker. In the first film, she was a customer service representative who became entwined in Willis’ espionage past. And present. And now knows she loves the excitement and the action of such skullduggery and shenanigans, and wants to be a part of it.

The only problem with Red 2 is that, being a sequel, the surprise and freshness of the original is lost in exchange for bigger… louder… more. There are more new characters replacing those that didn’t survive the first outing. Ergo… that requires more plot, which gets confusing and way too much to remember. And although Parker still walks away with the show, and Malkovich, as you may expect, has all the best comedic, and paranoid, lines, that’s as it should be.

Helen Mirren returns as an uber-assassin for Britain’s MI-6, and is not given nearly enough to do. Brian Cox has a couple of scenes as her Russian enamorata, and they still seem to have “that old black magic” between them. Willis is still fine in what’s usually called “the Bruce Willis role,” but for someone who’s ostensibly retired, he’s still in remarkably agile shape, able to take the harshest of punches with hardly a flinch. Adding to this spyscape is Anthony Hopkins as a demented, detained scientist who’s been held prisoner for 32 years because he was demented enough to create a nuclear device and smuggle it into the Kremlin. And enter another Russian player in the person of Catherine Zeta-Jones, who was once a fling of Willis’, which creates jealousy in Parker.

Noticeably absent from this sequel are Morgan Freeman and Richard Dreyfuss, whose characters didn’t make the transition, and an amazing, appealing cameo by the-then 95 year old Ernest Borgnine, who was as delightful and capable as ever. And although they have no scenes together, it was good to see Brian Cox and Anthony Hopkins in the same film, since both once played Hannibal Lector; Cox in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, and Hopkins, of course, for his Oscar-winning turn in Jonathan Demme’sSilence of the Lambs, and its sequels.

But save for the aforementioned delights, Red 2 is more of the same backstabbing, corkscrewing and dirty dealing. This time the direction is handled by the less-assured Dean Parisot, who has done mostly series television, and the running time is five minutes longer, which is at least twenty minutes too long.

Red 2 is not a disaster, it’s just a disappointment, and especially considering how good the first film was.

The R-rated Red 2 is now saving the world at a plex near you.