Review: Red 2 (12A)

Lee Byung-Hun
Lee Byung-Hun
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You can teach old dogs new tricks, or so it seems in Red 2, the action-packed sequel to the uproarious 2010 comedy about a team of retired assassins who merrily kick butt and run rings around highly trained agents 30 years their junior.

Dean Parisot’s testosterone-fuelled caper is a hugely entertaining and polished piece of nonsense, which ramps up the action sequences as the lean and preposterous plot ricochets between Paris, London and Moscow at dizzying speed.

The dream team of Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren lock and load once again with giddy abandon, also welcoming to the fray celebrated Korean actor Lee Byung-hun, whose martial arts skills allow for some terrific sequences of hand-to-hand combat in bone-crunching close-up.

Screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber, who penned the original, mix comedy and explosions with a dash of romance, garnished with Sir Anthony Hopkins reliving his Hannibal Lecter glory days as a mentally unstable scientist with a dark secret. He is clearly enjoying himself in the role.

The incendiary cocktail goes down a treat, delivering big laughs without needing to engage your brain too much to keep track of the usual array of crosses, double-crosses and sly twists.

Red 2 opens at a wholesale grocery store where retired CIA operative Frank Moses (Willis) is enjoying domestic life with girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), who – somewhat ironically – craves excitement in their relationship. So she is delighted when Frank’s sartorially challenged former associate Marvin Boggs (an as usual brilliant Malkovich) pops up unexpectedly in the adjacent aisle.

“You haven’t killed anybody in months!” Marvin protests to his pal.

“That’s not a bad thing,” counters Frank.

Marvin’s re-appearance coincides with a dastardly plot involving US government agent Jack Horton (Neal McDonough), Russian secret agent Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and an enigmatic figure known as The Frog (David Thewlis).

Frank, Marvin and Sarah go on the run for their lives with Chinese contract killer Han Jo-bae (Byung-hun) in hot pursuit. Stylish assassin Victoria (Mirren) telephones Frank to let him know that British intelligence have also hired her to put a bullet through his head.

Surrounded by people they can’t trust, Frank, Sarah and Marvin embark on a madcap globe-trotting mission in search of answers, which leads them to a covert exercise codenamed Operation Nightshade and its doddery creator (Hopkins).

Based on the DC Comics series of the same name, Red 2 delivers as many thrills and spills as its predecessor, with tongue wedged firmly in cheek.

The leads destroy swathes of each European capital as they search for answers, armed with an arsenal of droll one-liners.

Malkovich continues to scene-steal with his eye-catching outfits. Zeta-Jones’s introduction as a vampy old flame – “She is Frank Moses’s kryptonite!” confides Marvin – fails to kindle sufficient sparks in limited screen time but, like the deranged film she inhabits, she’s a blast.

Damon Smith ****