In a summer movie season of overwhelming bombs and undeniable mediocrity, director Dean Parisot’s “RED 2” won’t bomb overwhelmingly, but it is undeniably mediocre.
In this sequel to 2010’s “RED,” retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is living happily with his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) and trying to put his past life behind him. Unfortunately, his paranoid friend Marvin (John Malkovich) reveals that documents have surfaced connecting the two of them to the top-secret Cold War project Operation Nightshade: the creation of a weapon of mass destruction.
Though they know nothing about Nightshade, there is a substantial bounty on their heads and U.S. secret agent Jack Horton (Neal McDonough), Korean master assassin Han Cho Bai (Byung-hun Lee), and even their old friend Victoria (Helen Mirren) are all sent to kill them.
If this all seems familiar, it is. In fact, very little about “RED 2” differentiates it from the original. Frank always manages to stay one step ahead of the bad guys, the fight scenes are entertaining (and baffling, considering our retired heroes are in such great shape), and there is of course the obligatory slow-motion car chase/shootout.
The only discernible difference here is the emphasis on the relationship between Frank and Sarah, which is ultimately unfortunate. In the first film, Frank’s crush made for a fun side plot, but now that they’re dating, it seems everyone – even Han Cho Bai – gives the couple advice…even as they are trying to kill them.
Add to that Russian agent Katya (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who has a history with Frank and exists solely as a romantic rival for Sarah, and “RED 2” teeters into hokey romantic comedy that detracts from the action and muddles the narrative flow.
“RED 2” isn’t a bad film, just frustratingly mediocre. The action is satisfactory but not spectacular, while the plot twists are more confusing than engaging. Even the all-star cast is largely forgettable, save for Malkovich, whose manic energy brings comic relief that the love triangle simply can’t.
That, however, isn’t nearly enough to rescue the film from ashes of the wreck that has been the Summer of 2013. “After Earth” this isn’t, but it is a mediocre, disposable, and largely forgettable dud.
** ½ out of five