Saturday, 3 August 2013

Film Review: Red 2 (2013)

Director: Dean Parisot
Writers: Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber
Stars: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins

Without fear of reducing a review to its simplest common denominator, if you liked 2010’s RED then you’re going to like RED 2 just as much, maybe even more. If you didn’t like the first film, then you’re probably not going to get any enjoyment from this sequel.

Thankfully, I enjoyed RED for what it was and thought it delivered enough action and laughs to give this sequel a look. The result was yet another thoroughly enjoyable mix of action and laughs, even surpassing the original in terms of sheer and unabashed fun; not something I have found with the majority of 2013’s summer offerings.

The film is by no means without its problems and plot holes are scattered throughout, but the reasons why RED 2 works where others constantly fail is threefold. Firstly (and crucially) the film sets its tone from the very beginning and doesn’t set its sights on being something which it isn’t and should never be; you won’t find any ‘real world’ allegories or deep meanings vying for attention amidst CGI-reliant action scenes here, nor will characters be facing angst-ridden emotional arcs in attempts to make the film appear ‘dark’ and ‘gritty’ when in fact all it results in is a dilution of the fun it was supposed to deliver. RED 2 tells its audience from the very start that it is not taking itself seriously and doesn’t want you to either; if more films were as upfront as this then perhaps less would disappoint when their screenplay and storyline cannot support their greater intentions.

With this is mind, the other two main reasons why RED 2 works fall into place; cast and action. The principle cast from the first film are all back (Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox) and are clearly having fun with roles which are typically written for younger actors aimed at a younger audience, and the added cast (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins) slot nicely into the action without breaking stride. It goes without saying all of these actors have made better films and have stretched their acting abilities far beyond these ‘Retired and Extremely Dangerous’ assassins but the fact that they are great actors is what makes RED 2 and its predecessor such fun and brings the audience along for the ride; their performances are exactly at the level they need to be for these films to deliver without trying to elevate it into something else and failing miserably.

The action in the film (of which there is plenty) is staged and shot well and each set piece doesn’t outstay its welcome only to then become a bore. The action is people-focused and involves the characters rather than centring its thrills on the spectacle of mass destruction. Moreover RED 2 doesn’t want to be brutal and overly realistic and embraces its 12A (or PG-13) rating rather than shying away from it. Again, the film’s success is found in the tone which is set up from the very start.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: RED 2 may not be 2013’s the most ambitious or original action/adventure film (if that still exists in Hollywood anymore) and it won’t be talked about a week after its release; but who cares when it delivers what it set out to deliver and doesn’t disappoint. I wish I could say that more often.

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