It has become abundantly clear to me that the unofficial theme for this year is “Properties that don’t need sequels.” Over the course of this year, especially this summer, we’ve seen Grown Ups 2, Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, Into Darkness, Iron Man 3 and many more. Here this week to join the cavalcade of unnecessary sequels is RED 2, based on the limited DC comic series of the same name.
The film is directed by Dean Parisot, who is responsible for the cult favorite Galaxy Quest as well as a few episodes of various popular television programs. Coincidentally (here’s your useless bit or trivia for the day) the director of the original RED, Robert Schwentke, is the man behind the paranormal buddy cop film R.I.P.D, which is in theaters at the exact same time as RED 2. Personally, I suspect the Illuminati. Be that as it may, the story this time around comes to us from brothers Joe and Eric Hoeber who seem determined to take everything that was fun and exciting about the original RED and throw it off of a cliff; but more on that in a moment.
Reprising their roles from 2010 are Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Dame Helen Mirren, who are working alongside the always impressive Anthony Hopkins. It seems strange that a film starring so many extraordinarily talented actors would fall so flat, and indeed, the RED franchise up until this point is nothing if not an enormous waste of acting potential. I suspect that the actors themselves thought so to, as some of the performances, Bruce Willis’s specifically, seem uncomfortably phoned-in. Then again, perhaps the acting is merely a reflection on the IP at this point, which has become a world class exercise in phoning it in.
The two main problems that I have with the film are the story and the tone. Let me explain. The story, if one deigns to call such a sloppy mess of loosely associated events a story, is essentially unintelligible for the first half, culminating in a painfully predictable finale. Throughout the first hour of the film, the story takes off at a breakneck pace and races from set piece to set piece, seemingly content to let actions unfold on-screen without any sense of connectivity or meaning. I get the impression that RED 2 doesn’t give a damn about me as a member of the audience. It’s almost as though the film takes for granted that I’m sitting in the theater, and can’t really be bothered with stringing together a coherent narrative. Instead, it throws up some half-baked word vomit and hopes that we’ll be satisfied with some meaningless explosions sprinkled over an allegedly exotic locale. I’ve never felt so unloved.
The second thing I took issue with in RED 2 was the hugely generic tone that it had adopted since the funnier and more lighthearted original. The whole gimmick of RED is right there in the acronym: Retired, Extremely Dangerous. The 2010 RED took the idea of old, inexplicably sharp government operatives and saw the opportunity for a unique and engaging movie with plenty of fun and an emphasis on over-the-top action sequences and comedy. RED 2, however, misses the point by several miles and continues to travel determinedly in the wrong direction. Instead of raucous fun, the film opts for a tone not dissimilar from every other action movie made ever. It’s only in a very few, slower moments that the film seems to remember what made the original RED so special, and tries to crack some jokes or make Bruce Willis’s girlfriend accidentally shoot something.
RED 2 is a disappointing movie, not only because it squanders the talents of some extraordinary actors, but also because it looses touch with it’s origins. The film never had the potential to compete with other big budget action movies this summer, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t still a place for it, had it executed correctly. As it stands, RED 2 brings nothing new to the table and will quickly be forgotten beneath the mounds of other, samey action movies this summer.
Rating: 2 out of 5