The last time we saw John Malkovich in Red, he was wearing blonde braids and being pushed in a wooden cart through a field in Maldova with bombs going off all around him, while being chased by dozens of armed soldiers.
Red 2 reunites John Malkovich’s paranoid and retired CIA-Agent (Marvin) with his old partner, Frank Moses, played by Bruce Willis. You have to love a Hollywood movie where all of the stars are over 50. I watched the first installment of the 2010 sleeper hit Red this week to refresh my memory of the fun story and quirky characters in preparation for the sequel, and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time, but you don’t have to see it to still get a kick out of Red 2. You’ll miss a few inside jokes and some relationship background, but you’ll catch on quickly enough to enjoy the goofy action.
Although the original poster to advertise Red was actually red, it’s actually an acronym which stands for “Retired Extremely Dangerous”, a label some “thumb sucker” used on a file when Frank and Marvin retired from the CIA. The color red is actually highlighted more in this second film, as well as a more comic-book feel. The campy 70’s music from the original is replaced with a more current twist, often using popular musical snippets to underscore comedic moments.
Red 2 opens in Costco, where Marvin and his girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker) are shopping for giant bags of shrimp to take home to their quiet, boring life in the ‘burbs. It doesn’t take long for bullets to start flying and a mysterious crime to call them into action.
The film is rated PG-13 for lots and lots of violence (mostly bloodless). It has it all: awesome explosions, car crashes in impressive chase scenes in Paris, tons of shooting with various weapons, hand-to-hand combat, and even a guy getting killed with a lethal origami bird. You’ll hear some profanity in the heat of the moment, but no F-bombs. Oh, and lots and lots of kissing. Frank’s girlfriend often resorts to kissing the bad guys when she can’t think of anything else to do. She’s an enthusiastic accomplice, successfully donning short skirts during most of the movie, eagerly taking tactical tips from Marvin when Frank isn’t looking. It’s important to have fun activities to do together as a couple.
Speaking of Frank’s girlfriend (Sarah Ross) played by Mary-Louise Parker, I wish Hollywood actresses would stop messing with their faces and just age gracefully. I always admired Mary-Louise Parker for her feminine beauty before she had “work” done, including Botox which leaves her acting more reliant upon voice inflection than facial expression. She’s a terrific actress, also starring in this weekend’s arrival of R.I.P.D. directed by Robert Schwentke, who directed the first Red, but not the sequel. Marvin comments that she has something that neither he nor Frank have: people like her. And they do…in both Red 2 and R.I.P.D.
Frank’s romantic kryptonite is revealed in the “dusky femme fatale”, Russian Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Was the fake tan necessary? What happens in the Kremlin, stays in the Kremlin. I’ll bet you didn’t know there was a Papa John’s right next door to Soviet headquarters, did you? The beloved Anthony Hopkins graces the screen as a brilliant scientist who can unlock the secrets to the “Project Nightshade” dilemma, but alas, he has been put under I.C.E. (Incarcerated Can’t Execute).
Helen Mirren’s character, MI6 agent Victor, offers relationship advice to Sarah and skillfully takes out enemies while looking fabulous the entire time. Now there is an actress who is aging gracefully. Marvin encourages Frank to run to emotional safety, explaining “I know one thing: women and covert ops.” Frank protests “But that’s two things.” Marvin, in his great wisdom, opines “No Grasshopper. It is not.”
As our favorite cool, yet deadly, retired agents all come together again, Han (Byung-hun Lee) appears in the least convenient times to put a hit on Frank. Their fights are pretty impressive, especially considering the age difference between the two.
My husband has a hard time enjoying movies that are completely implausible, and there are quite a few critics out there who are also annoyed by the film’s holes, but imagine the actors and director with their tongue firmly planted in their cheeks and you’ll be entertained. By the way, Maldova gets a shout-out in the movie, and John Malkovich ends the movie wearing fruit on his head, dressed as a dancer in their next adventure in Caracas. Red 3?