After Red, a DC Comics adaptation, became a surprise hit back in 2010, there was no doubt we would eventually be seeing more from our new favorite aging agents. Sure enough, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, and Helen Mirren all are back for Red 2 along with Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Just as Frank (Willis) is trying to enjoy a more quiet life of retirement with Sarah (Parker) over the gunfire and explosion filled chaos that we last saw them involved in, his former cohort Marvin (Malkovich) brings them the news that someone has put their names on a classified plot to smuggle a nuclear device into Russia back during the cold war days. This makes them enemy number one of just about every agency and organization in the world which means the happy couple's peaceful days of being domestic have come to an abrupt end.
As the two men, along with Sarah who refuses to be left behind, take matters into their own hands to uncover the real culprits behind this dastardly plot, their old friend Victoria (Mirren) has been hired to take them out. Of course, the sharp shooter extraordinaire has mixed emotions about this uncomfortable undertaking, but the alternative to carrying it out is her own untimely demise. To top things off, Korean hitman Han Cho Bai has also been hired to take out both Frank and Marvin although, unlike Victoria, he is more than happy to be hunting down his most hated enemy from days past.
I would like to say that this second installment of what could be an ongoing franchise is just as sharp, witty, and action packed as the original, but it actually falls short in all three areas. Sure, its still a fun and entertaining romp through the latter days of aging agents and their dangerous dealings, but the whole thing felt like a not quite as good version of pretty much everything that happened in the first movie. Maybe it was the change in director from Robert Schwentke, to Dean Parisot although neither of them have had mixed results over each of their respective careers.
What we do get that works really well is the camaraderie between the two leading characters played by Willis and Malkovich with Bruce playing the straight man (would you expect anything else?) to John's not quite over the top goofball performance as Marvin. Anthony Hopkins also does a fine job jumping into a seemingly crazy man's shoes and you can tell he had a grand time letting loose on this role which was tailor made for a person who can toe the fine line between genius and lunatic. As for the ladies, Parker and Jones don't really have a whole lot to do and their performances show it although Mirren is a delight to watch as the beautiful, blonde assassin, just as she was in the first film.
When it was all said and done, Red 2 felt more like the third or fourth installment of a series rather than the second which should still have a lot of fresh ideas to play with. The action is decent, the pacing is fast, and the acting is...well, its just fun to watch this particular group of actors play these, at times outrageous characters. While I wasn't overly impressed, I also walked away feeling like I was entertained even if it was a little too overly familiar for its own good. I'm sure there will be a part 3, 4 and maybe a 5 before its all said and done, I just hope the creative team behind these movies are able to bring back more of the magic that made the first one such a delight to watch.