Just because you have an AARP card doesn’t mean you can’t be an action hero and high-tech weapons expert.
That’s not meant as a description of National Rifle Association promotional material, but rather of Red 2, a sequel to the 2010 comic-book thriller about international spies, assassins and government operatives.
Like the original, this installment boasts a top-notch cast and has its share of moments that are both funny and exciting, but ultimately feels too familiar and stale.
The story centers on Frank (Bruce Willis), a retired CIA agent who reunites his aging team including Marvin (John Malkovich) once he becomes the target of an investigation for past missions. With his bumbling girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker) tagging along, Frank becomes entangled in a high-stakes effort to stop the smuggling of a Cold War nuclear weapon into Russia.
Among those who take turns as both friends and foes are a sultry Russian operative (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a feisty British agent (Helen Mirren) and a Korean assassin (Byung Hun Lee). Then there’s the Pentagon official (Neal McDonough) who wants Frank dead and the inventor of the nuclear device (Anthony Hopkins) who isn’t afraid to double-cross anyone in his path.
Red 2 benefits from a veteran cast that obviously is having fun with the material. The globetrotting concept seems to be more ambitious, making stops in Paris, London, Hong Kong and Washington, D.C., and its plot boils down to a battle for world domination.
Older audiences will probably get a kick, again, from seeing Mirren and Malkovich, among others, tangle with enemies half their age in a series of shootouts, explosions and car chases. Much of the humor is derived from their nonchalant ability to kill targets or elude danger, which fits with its comic roots.
Directed by Dean Parisot (Fun with Dick and Jane), the film contains a handful of taut and slickly assembled action sequences, including a multi-vehicle chase amid crowded Parisian streets, but it doesn’t add up to much.
With all that said, there’s a freshness and a spark missing from the script by siblings Jon and Erich Hoeber (Battleship), who also adapted the first film. By not really improving upon the original, it seems more interested in trying to recapture old magic than in creating something new.
Rated PG-13, 116 minutes.