Frank Moses, retired CIA black ops agent, is struggling. No its not the contract killers trying to take him down nor the various intelligence agencies chasing him that is causing him consternation. Frank, played by Bruce Willis, knows how to deal with those adversaries just fine. While trading gunfire and going hand-to-hand, Frank is in his element, comfortable and assured. No, the real struggle he faces is in his relationship with his girlfriend Sarah played by Mary-Louise Parker. He wants to keep her safe, but that means shutting her out from a central part of his life.

Someone has leaked information concerning a secret cold war weapons project. Frank along with Marvin his quirky fellow retired agent played by John Malkovich were named in the leak. Now various terrorists and intelligence agencies are hunting them down thinking the two agents have knowledge of a powerful weapon that is both feared and coveted. Neither Frank nor Marvin know anything about the project however and they are forced to uncover the mystery to save their skins. Thus begins the chase. Traipsing across the globe, they are helped by one of their colleagues Victoria who is played by Helen Mirren and are hunted by Han the best contract killer in the world played by Lee Byung-hun. The search leads Frank and the team to scientist Edward Bradley played by Anthony Hopkins.

Amidst all this, Frank tries to keep Sarah out of harm’s way by keeping her simply out of the way. But Sarah wants more. She wants to be in his life including in the terrifying (and exciting) parts where bullets are flying. She wants to be part of the team. Marvin, though eccentric, is not lacking in insight. He sees Frank’s predicament, realizes what is going on and gives Frank advice telling him he must learn to let go and trust. Its not a smooth adjustment for Frank and Sarah. Some of funnier moments of the film happen as Sarah bumbles along hindering more than helping but eventually finding her place. Things are further complicated by the appearance of Miranda who is Frank’s ex played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She is an old flame who Frank still can’t resist and Sarah is not pleased to have her around Frank.

There is a lot to like about Red 2. The plot works well enough with a few twists but the strength of this film is the characters and the stellar cast behind them. With so many big names in one cast, you would think that the film would have difficulty giving quality screen time to all of the players. But they were able to accomplish just that with each of the main actors contributing distinct entertaining performances while keeping the story moving along at a good pace.

While relationship dynamics are at its heart, this film is squarely an action comedy and it delivers on both counts striking a satisfying balance between the two elements. Red 2 does not bludgeon you to death with gratuitous action sequences. For the most part there is a nice tight economy to the sequences. They are effective, fun, and to the point. And on the comedy side of things, there is plenty to enjoy from John Malkovich’s trademark wierdness, to Mary-Louise Parker’s spot on portrayal of Sarah’s awkwardness as a civilian trying to fit in. Helen Mirren deserves special recognition here as she consistently delivers on both elements. There is one scene in particular where she is playfully kicking her feet while sniping in a prone position that is sure to draw laughs and please foot fetishists.

Red 2 is a worthy successor to Red. If you liked the first film you will enjoy Red 2. Its a fun watch with a terrific mix of laughs, action, and interesting characters.

– Lawrence Ladao


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