Red 2 is not a film on which to expend a great deal of ink, but one worth the price of admission on a sultry summer’s afternoon. Starring Bruce WIllis, John Malkovich, Mary Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Byung-hun Lee, this new release is a slyly amusing, comedic spy flick sequel to the 2010 original film. The twists and turns of the plot are sufficiently stringent and provocative, and the conventions of the spy thriller stylishly adhered to with just enough wit to evoke smiles.
As Frank Moses, Bruce Willis plays against type – a deadpan “extremely dangerous killer” with a tender, romantic streak inspired by his girlfriend Sarah. John Malkovich’s Marvin is a wickedly trenchant operative, a master of the actor’s signature irony and understatement. Anthony Hopkins is gleefully psychopathic as the mad scientist Bailey, and Byung-hun Lee mocks the Bruce Lee sort of hero.
Mary Louise Parker is delicious as Sarah, Frank’s lady love who craves adventure and who learns to navigate treacherous waters with her feminine wiles. Catherine Zeta-Jones is a handsome, hard-edged Katja, and Helen Mirren, almost steals the show with her ruthless demeanor and glamorous grande dame presence, bringing to mind James Bond’s femmes fatales.
Dean Parisot’s direction is fast-paced and maximizes the actors’ fine sense of comedic timing. There are enough special effects to satisfy a contemporary audience without going “over the top.” The travel backdrops of London, Paris, and Moscow are an agreeable bonus, reminiscent of such vintage shows as I Spy.
Indeed, there is a welcome nostalgia about Red2, which pays homage to the classics of the spy genre at the same time that it gently parodies them. The film’s little jokes have an intimate flavor to them that returns the viewer to the comforting realm of memory.