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From left, Mary-Louise Parker, Bruce Willis and John Malkovich return in “Red 2,” now in theaters. Photo by Jan Thijs
From left, Mary-Louise Parker, Bruce Willis and John Malkovich return in “Red 2,” now in theaters. Photo by Jan Thijs
ArtsRancho Santa Fe

Film review: Willis still has the moves in ‘Red 2’

A lighthearted, enjoyable action comedy that knows what it’s doing, “Red 2” delivers the goods as genuine popcorn entertainment. 

Retired black ops agent Frank Moses’ (Bruce Willis) attempt to live a normal life with his girlfriend, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), is interrupted by Interpol hunting him.

Frank reassembles his teammates for an international quest to clear his name and thwart nuclear attack.

If there’s one thing about “Red 2” we can rely on to keep us entertained, it’s the action sequences, and this film has plenty of them to satisfy our summer appetites. Like its 2010 predecessor, the set pieces are captured in smooth shots with enough spatial awareness to understand what’s happening, thereby allowing the audience to enjoy the fun in its fullest form. Fistfight, shootout, car chase — you name it! Speaking of which, the Parisian car chase was particularly impressive; it was a much-needed breath of fresh air after having seen one too many movies featuring car chases plagued by quick editing cuts and shaky camerawork.

In addition, the comic interplay between the cast members, especially Mirren and Malkovich, is priceless, lighting up the screen with endless amounts of dry and dark humor woven into the dialogue. Of course there are several slapstick moments so as to prevent the film from getting lost in its high-octane action — we have both Willis and Lee Byung-hun to thank for that during instances in which the latter attempts to take out the former.

And, as a special cherry on top, Parker gets to chime in with her unintentionally funny take on handling high-stakes situations.

The returning cast members are in top form as always, appearing as though they haven’t changed much since that fun ride they had in the first “Red.” Bruce Willis is in his element here; think of him as the easygoing, friendlier counterpart to his John McClane of “Die Hard.” Plus, he’s still got the moves to stay one step ahead of the bad guys and the one-liners to keep everyone’s spirits up. John Malkovich has the best lines and steals just about every scene he’s in, mostly due to his hilarious facial expressions.

Matching him at every word is the ever-erudite Helen Mirren, who continues to prove she’s not ready to retire and leave her glorious shooting days behind. Mary-Louise Parker takes full advantage of her role’s big promotion, resulting in her getting in on the action sequences with her own style while keeping a straight face.

Rounding out this veteran posse is a band of newcomers that settles in rather well and wastes no time in having fun. Catherine Zeta-Jones is quite good as Frank’s former lover and Russia field operative. Lee Byung-hun is, needless to say, a natural at fighting multiple opponents with ease and pursuing his targets with forceful determination. As for Anthony Hopkins, his performance is mostly characterized by gleeful grins and a calculating glint in his eyes, both of which suit him as he navigates the excitement without having to pause to see where he is going.

If you ever feel like watching a movie that is action-packed, humorous, and doesn’t take itself too seriously while still having a mind of its own, “Red 2” will do its job well and leave you satisfied upon leaving the theater. I’ll guarantee that.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language, and drug material.
Run time: 1 hour and 56 minutes
Playing: In general release