Not every movie deserves a sequel. Based on the early 2000’s comic from Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, Red was good dumb fun about retired spies forced to get back into the game when their past caught up with them. Not straining any brain muscles, the sequel is roughly the same premise as Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), Marvin (John Malkovich), and Frank’s girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) find themselves marked for death based on Frank and Marvin’s part in a secret operation more than three decades ago.
The movie begins in much the same way as another of Willis’ regrettable sequels as the former spy attempts to lay low in the suburbs with a girlfriend who wants more crazy adventures. Forced on the run, the threesome are pursued by the world’s best hitman (Byung-hun Lee) with a personal score to settle, as well as Victoria (Helen Mirren) who is ordered by MI6 to put Frank and Marvin in the ground. Brian Cox reprises his role as Ivan, and the movie also offers up Catherine Zeta-Jones as the Russian spy who has Frank wrapped around her little finger and Anthony Hopkins as a mad scientist locked away for 30 years.
The plot of Red 2 unfolds in confusing fashion with shifting loyalties, betrayals, and character choices that often don’t make sense to anyone other than the rest of the equally illogical characters on screen. The “humor” of the first half-hour is painful at times, but the actors are charming and when the action finally kicks into high gear there are some fun moments to be had (amidst lame running gags such as Parker’s character kissing everyone in sight and the movie struggling to make Willis still look like a legitimate action hero).
One of the reasons Red worked was the simple idea of pitting the veteran spy (Willis) against the younger version (Karl Urban, who doesn’t return) who is doing his job to bring down a former agent he believes is a threat to national security. Here Frank’s enemies are a bland mid-level agent (Neal McDonough doing his basic bad guy routine), Victoria (whose loyalties are never really questioned), a hitman who provides some great action sequences but is never a real threat, and various other characters whose loyalties shift from scene to scene.
Red was hardly a great movie, but despite its flaws it was fun. Red 2 may have some fun moments, but the trainwreck of a sequel simply can’t hold enough good scenes together to keep the film from floundering through most of its nearly two-hour running time. It’s not Willis’ worst sequel by any means, but if you are still curious to see it I’d recommend waiting for home video, or even cable, and spending as little money as possible.