2010’s Red was something of a rarity. It was an over-the-top, overly-long action film, but it was a lot of fun. Films like that tend to wear down the viewer as you’re subjected to one action scene after the other, but what made it a little different was the fact that it took actors that you normally wouldn’t see in such a film (Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman) and threw them into the line of fire, quite literally. I was just as surprised as anyone to find that, despite the normal action clichés, it was rather enjoyable. With this in mind, I welcomed the possibility of a sequel that would reunite these characters for more insane mayhem, hoping that lightning would indeed strike twice. However, like with many sequels, it’s a prospect easier said than done.
Red 2 picks up not long after the original. We find Frank (Bruce Willis) trying to live a peaceful life with his wife, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), when Marvin (John Malkovich) suddenly pops back into their lives to warn them of a potential danger. Not long after, Frank is taken into custody, interrogated, and nearly killed, only to be rescued by Marvin, who expands upon his original warning. A document has recently been leaked online stating that he and Frank took part in an operation known as “Nightshade” back in the 70s, which involved smuggling a nuclear device into Moscow. Now the United States Government has declared them terrorists and has sent one of the best hitmen in the world, Han Cho Bai (Byung-Hun Lee), to take them out. Meanwhile, MI6 has also gotten wind of this, leading them to send their own hired gun after them.
While the first film may have gotten by on a pervasive sense of fun, this time around it’s natural that we would expect something a little more. Unfortunately, the fun factor has dwindled away quite a bit, resulting in a lackluster sequel that isn’t much different from every other bombastic action flick out there. True, we once again get to see Oscar winner Helen Mirren play shoot ‘em up along with Bruce Willis and John Malkovich, but the novelty of seeing her out of her element has worn off. The filmmakers try to refresh it by featuring Sir Anthony Hopkins, but even he isn’t enough to save this forgettable second outing.
Another thing that is rather bothersome is that they didn’t bother to fix the flaws from the first film in this sequel, perhaps the biggest one being the bloated runtime. The original film ran about 111 minutes, which was obviously way too long and stretched out for the story it was trying to tell. Instead of trying to fix the issue, they churn out a sequel that’s even longer, this time running about 116 minutes. Again, this is clearly way too long for the half-baked plot that they want to convey. Not that anyone who really wants to see this kind of movie is paying much attention to the plot, but they still could have done a much better job of fleshing it out while chopping off a good 20-30 minutes of excess action.
That leads right into the other major issue: the film is pretty much a string of action sequences linked together by the thread of a plot. Granted, the first film didn’t have much of a plot to go on either, but at least there was a bit of a mystery to keep the audience guessing. Red 2 pretty much boils down to a madman wanting to set off a nuclear device in a major city, so when you get a break from being inundated with action scene after action scene, you quickly find out that the film doesn’t have much else to offer.
Red 2 is rather disappointing because, as I mentioned earlier, its predecessor was so much fun, a trait that you could see in the actors’ faces as they gallivanted about the multiple silly action sequences while spouting off cheesy dialogue. This time, it’s quite noticeable that they aren’t having as much fun as before, probably because they realize that this is pretty much rehashing what they did three years ago. When the actors don’t even seem to be having fun, there’s a good chance that the audience is not going to either, resulting in a tedious experience that is soon forgotten.
Turning now to the Blu-Ray specs, the film is presented in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. While there isn’t much to look at throughout the film other than explosions and gunfire, it is all presented in crystal clear clarity. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is also of high quality, allowing you to hear all of those explosions and gunshots in optimal form. At least in these two departments there’s not much to complain about.
The following special features are included on the disc:
- The Red 2 Experience: a Multi-part Documentary
- Gag Reel
- Deleted Scenes
The multi-part documentary is a pretty good look behind the scenes at the making of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew as they discuss various elements of it, such as the characters, weapons, stunts, and tactics. Sadly the gag reel isn’t much to look at (i.e. there’s nothing particularly funny about it), while the deleted scenes don’t hold much of interest either. However, the 35-minute “Making of” documentary more than makes up for them.
While the film itself is a rather big disappointment, at the very least they went out of their way to provide an intriguing look at how it was made. That being said, I still wish they had put a lot more effort into the film. The filmmakers should have realized that it can’t simply slide by on action scenes and star power alone. There’s got to be a little something more there, whether it be a solid plot or an aim at camp, as the first film did rather nicely. Red 2 feels as though it was churned out in a couple of minutes with the intention of making a quick buck, which is a feeling you should never get after any film.
Red 2 fails to capture the fun of the first film and also manages to hold on to its weaker traits, such as a bloated runtime and an inundation of mindless action sequences, turning this into a rather forgettable affair.