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RED 2 (2013)

CRUMBLES… 4 crumblies

More fun! More oldsters giving out the comedy and gunfire! Not quite so tight or sympathetic, what with familiarity, but international plotting and a touch of the Cold War. Add in Anthony Hopkins doing dotty then conniving and mad, and you have more old folk Retired and Extremely Dangerous: RED 2.

Bloody loved it.

I know, there were some whinges when it came out that the ground was well-trodden and the plotting a pile of cack, but pffft. Welcome back nominal headliner Bruce Willis as Frank, ex CIA, now loved up in a relationship of panic and mutual boredom with the smart and snarky Mary-Louise Parker. They’ve gone domestic: she’s bored, he’s a bit too keen on weird shit from hardware stores, so they both need the first explosion in the film. It comes soon, John Malkovich‘s Marvin getting hurled arse over tits in his car. Oh dear, I thought, as they congregate at his funeral and Willis – an actor beneath the flat affect and twitching of it all – sheds tears…

Of course, dead he ain’t. But we don’t find that out until Frank and Sarah have been dragged to a ‘facility’, threatened with torture and death by Neal McDonough as evil agent Jack Horton.  For the bad guys think Frank has information he doesn’t about something called Nightshade. Yikes. Horton takes out a kill order on the good guys, which gifts us the oddly sexy moment of Helen Mirren phoning to say she’s going to take the job, whilst she pours acid into a bath and shoves her last kill’s feet in to melt the whole corpse. Lovely-lovely.

Plotting thereafter doesn’t really matter. Everyone is an old friend, an old enemy, pithy to the bones and set to kill Frank or be killed by him. The line-up is terrific.

Byung-hun Lee is Han Cho Bai, assassin and mesmerisingly murderous star from Korea. He is blighted by Frank, his jet stolen so the good guys can get around the plot, his ego whacked at every turn – and in some spectacular fights. That Lee works through all this with a deadpan wink to the audience is the making of the movie, owning the cool-space given up by Willis since the first film. Incidentally, and this bit of respect for an oldster brought a tear to old Jack’s eye, Lee’s real-life father is seen briefly in a photo. He died a few years before RED 2 and, hearing he was a real film fan, the makers graced his memory with a full credit in the film’s end-titles. A gorgeous gesture.

And then we go British-with-accents: Catherine Zeta-Jones is Katja, Frank’s catnip and weakness. She marches up and snogs him in front of Parker at one point, a dream moment for oldsters on a number of fronts. The banter is guaranteed as much as Parker’s reaction on meeting beautiful boys thereafter…

Brian Cox also pops up again, what with the film tripping over to Moscow and the detritus of ancient missions beyond the Iron Curtain.

Best of all, though, somehow balancing Malkovich’s intensity, is Anthony Hopkins as mad old professor Bailey. He’s been held captive as too dangerous to kill, which makes more sense as his plan for a singular weapon of mass destruction beckons. Hopkins out-mads the lot of them, never hitting the horrific point of singularity he gave Hannibal Lecter, but  showing why he is so respected. Even in comedy action fare, he gives another mad-fucker proper range and quality timing.

And through all of this, the dialogue sparkles, the put downs and embarrassments come thick, fast and delightful. I bow to the views of others who say the return to the RED well loses something from the softening of Frank and silliness of the whole thing. But – aaaaahhhhh – feet up boys and girls. The older generations are shown to be vibrant, funny, sexy and lethal. And that is wholly good.

If you loved the first film, what the hell, try a double bill.


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