Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Case for Seeing Double Red

Going into a sequel, I suppose that I expect more of the same with a bit of a fresh twist.  

Going into Red 2, I definitely got more of the same in the gloriously ageing visages of Bruce Willis (as Frank), John Malkovich (Marvin) and Helen Mirren (Victoria), but the other stuff that was the same was not quite what I was expecting, and the new elements seemed to make the whole thing more inert than reinvigorate the franchise.

Oddly enough, most of the film seems to be about Sarah.  While the actress playing her, Mary Louise Parker, is always awesome, her apparently rather botoxed face seemed frozen into a perpetual expression of unimpressed surprise, and her character in this film is less charming and more clingy yet grossly incompetent, and her attempts at seducing men are embarrassing for all concerned.   

Meanwhile the “star” of the film, Willis, seems to almost absent from the film.  His repartee with Malkovich is uninspired even though they had a good chemistry in the first film.  Really, only Mirren comes back with a character that is at all likeable, and she is absent from a great part of the movie.

There is lots of action, in rather slow pieces that show a lot of craft if not necessarily a lot of excitement.  There is also a surprising number of deaths in the film, the innocent being mowed down almost as frequently as the enemy in this film, though that may just have been me mistaking baddies in everyday clothes as normal London / Paris / Moscow citizenry. 

The plot itself gets off to an insanely and unnecessarily slow start by trying to reintroduce characters in ways that do nothing to actually reintroduce the characters.  This moves on to the main story, which is actually quite intriguing, involving a weapon of mass destruction created by a loopy Anthony Hopkins (as Bailey) that is buried somewhere under the Russian capital city.  But once the device is located, things begin to go off the rails a little, with a few “yes, we knew that all along” moments that make you wonder why the story progressed as it did the first time around.  The whole Parisian side trip kind of ends up in this category, though at the time it seemed to have a point. 

It’s odd that a film with so much action and so much movement would seem so slow.  But, the action doesn’t really seem to have much excitement in it, and some of the scenery and sets seem to be put together so cheaply that it seems as if the whole thing was shot in someone’s back yard, a la Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

Nonetheless, despite the lack of thrills and excitement, it is still fun to see Helen Mirren kick butt in her restrained ladylike way, and the others (plus Byunh-hun Lee as Han Cho Bai bringing some youthful martial arts action to the more mature fighting styles of our main heroes) contribute enough to make the film a pleasant diversion as well.

Verdict: Red 2 did not have me seeing, well, red, but more a harder edged type of beige.  Exciting is not a word I would use to describe it, but methodical and solid and occasionally painful are more accurate.  4 colours of the rainbow out of 7. 

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