Cast: Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Dean Parisot
Plot summary: Retired C.I.A. agent Frank Moses (Willis) reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device.
An action film that stars the likes of Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich can't possibly be bad, right? Wrong, at least if the critics are to be believed.
The film is a sequel to the 2010 sleeper hit Red and the popularity and appeal of the predecessor seems to be the most evident reason for the critics not taking to Red 2. The sequel seems to have replaced Morgan Freeman's character (who starred in Red) with Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who are the new additions. Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Mary-Louise Parker are the constants.As Stephanie Merry of the Washington Post notes, "Red...felt refreshing. Not only were the movie’s heroes all older than 50, but the action-comedy paid as much attention to the comedy as to the action, and the result was effervescently fun. Sequels are, for the most part, inherently stale, so it’s no shock the luster has faded in Red 2. The bigger surprise is just how clunky and unsatisfying this follow-up feels."
The Hollywood Reporter critic Justin Lowe voices his concern, "Dean Parisot -- taking the directorial reigns from Robert Schwentke – dials the film’s overall tone and action down a notch or two from the original. With such an accomplished cast, globetrotting locations and alternating shootouts and chase scenes of prodigious proportions, a degree of directorial elan might seem superfluous, but downplaying a distinctive visual style ends up holding the entire proceedings back a bit."
Justin Chang of Variety corroborates this. "Boilerplate twists and indifferent plotting were no hindrance to enjoying Red, which got by on its marvelous actors and the wry, even poignant conceit of professional killers being continually made aware of their own mortality. But that irony had more or less exhausted its potential by film’s end, and the actors returning for duty, though still marvelous, have little to do but recycle their character quirks, invariably to lesser effect."Kyle Smith of the New York Post is another unhappy man. "Red 2 is a movie featuring actors in their 60s and lame one-liners from the ’80s aimed at I.Q.s in the 70s. It isn’t good, it doesn’t pretend to be good, it isn’t trying to be good. It’s just a mass-produced industrial product, like the half-digestible salisbury steak TV dinner it’s made to be half-watched in front of."
Most critics even agree it's a lazy attempt to blindly ride on a film's success. Stephanie Merry writes, "Red 2 is merely part of the Hollywood machine that takes any surprise hit and churns out a follow-up as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, that means to quality, along with anything that made “Red” special, ends up like all of Frank’s adversaries: collateral damage."
Joe Neumaier of New York Daily News feels, "Sometimes credit can be given for not trying too hard. In which case, RED 2 generally comes out ahead for being so laid-back. This oldster-spies-in-from-the-cold flick is a sequel no one was asking for."
Bottom line: The only take-away from what the critics are saying seems to be that if you haven't already watched Red yet, it's possibly time to rent or download it now. As for the sequel, you can totally pass.