Red 2

Directed By: Dean Parisot

Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lee Byung-hun, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, David Thewlis, and Neal McDonough

Thursday July 18th marked some interesting anniversaries in movie history earlier this week.  It marked the 25th anniversary of John McTiernan's Die Hard, a movie that redefined the action genre and put Bruce Willis on the map in Hollywood.  It also marked the 5th anniversary of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, the greatest comic book movie of all time and a film that's reverberated throughout blockbuster cinema for the last several years.  On this weekend of major anniversaries, it's so fitting that Red 2, a DC Comics adaptation starring Bruce Willis, is hitting theaters.

Frank Moses (Willis) and his girlfriend Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) are living a normal, boring life.  Frank is completely disinterested in the idea of giving Sarah the adventurous, dangerous lifestyle she's craved since she learned that he is a retired C.I.A. agent.  When Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) shows up offering Frank a chance to get back in the game, Frank naturally turns him down.  Soon after, Marvin is killed with a car bomb, and Frank has no choice but to do just that.  When Frank goes to Marvin's funeral at the urging of Sarah, he's detained by the Feds, and Sarah goes to a safe house.

While detained, Frank learns that a Wikileaks cable recently released led to Marvin’s murder and his own capture.  The cable claims that Frank and Marvin had something to do with a Cold War operation in the Soviet Union known as Project Nightshade.  Though he had nothing directly to do with this op, he did know someone who did, a military scientist known as Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins).  Recognized as the "Da Vinci of Death", the inventive military scientist died 32 years ago when a security job on which Frank and Marvin were working went horribly wrong. 

With Bailey's death, a red mercury bomb, the mythical weapon of mass destruction he developed as part of Nightshade, remains somewhere in Russia hidden.  Everyone is trying to get their hands on it.  This includes DoD fixer Jack Horton (Neal McDonough), who believes he needs Frank for some information and is willing to break him out of jail to do so.  He just doesn't realize that Frank is a retiree who hasn't lost a step.  He isn't labeled "Retired, Extremely Dangerous" for no reason.  Meanwhile, MI-6 spy Victoria (Helen Mirren) has just received a contract to kill her longtime friend Frank.  She has competition though from Korean hitman Han Jo-Bae (Lee Byung-hun), the world's best contract killer and an old nemesis of Frank.

Our action stars are old, and they know it.  Director Dean Parisot knows it.  Hell, they were old in the original Red.  The reason why Red 2 works is that they all wholeheartedly embrace this reality.  Because they play on their age so much and have so much fun on screen, Red 2 might just be the most hilarious comic book movie of all time not starring Robert Downey, Jr.  I cried from laughter many, many times during this movie.  Of course, these elder actors offer plenty of great action as well.  Once again recognizing their age, however, they enlist Lee Byung-hun (Storm Shadow from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and G.I. Joe: Retaliation) to give the film some younger blood and a healthy dose of kickass action sequences.  With loads of laughs and lots of action, Red 2 is an endless delight.

Bruce Willis has just made up for his abysmal performance in A Good Day to Die Hard earlier this year.  He didn't leave us saying Yippee Ki Yay Mother Russia in the film actually meant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Die Hard.  When he goes to work in Red 2, however, he's kicking ass, taking names, and taking part in one hilarious love triangle.  He gives us the Bruce Willis we all know and love, that ageless action hero.  What makes it even better is his chemistry with his fellow stars, particularly the insanely funny John Malkovich and the surprisingly humorous badass Lee Byung-hun.

There are two new veteran actors who join the ranks in Red 2, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones.  For his part as Edward Bailey, Hopkins, an actor known for portraying crazy characters, is as outrageous as ever.  Instead of giving us the sadistic, sinister menace he traditionally gives us, Hopkins takes Bailey in a sillier direction, which works perfectly in a lighthearted action flick like Red 2.  He turns the backstory of having been locked away in a hole for 32 years into comedic gold.  For her part as Frank's old flame Katja, Catherine Zeta-Jones portrays one tough Russian operative.  Combative with Sarah and serving as Frank's kryptonite, Zeta-Jones never fully plays her hand in Red 2.  She offers a consistently mysterious character on screen.

All in all, Red 2 is a win-win on this weekend of big movie anniversaries.  It's another solid entry to action legend Bruce Willis's filmography and a small delight from DC Comics.  Red 2 gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.  The best apparently never do rest.