Red 2, the geezer-action-comedy-sequel (hilariously enough, not the first one this year, see The Expendables 2), hinges on two jokes: old people can still be awesome, and the characters don’t care about death. Which are, coincidentally, the same two jokes the first movie relied upon. But like many sequels, Red 2 fails to capture the charm and most of the humor of the original.
Pulling our “retired, extremely dangerous” heroes out of retirement again is the threat of baddies capturing a Cold War-era nuclear device, sending them globe hopping to take out younger villains. But that doesn’t even really matter.
The film isn’t overly concerned with the plot so much as using action sequences and outlandish situations to underline its principal jokes. Look how well the old guys can fight! Catherine Zeta-Jones and Mary Louise Parker are fighting over Bruce Willis! Isn’t it funny how Dame Mirren’s character, Victoria, casually disintegrates a body while she’s on the phone? Hilarious!
Red 2 does have a lot of genuine humor, especially when it plays on the tropes we know from the action genre and strips them to their humorous roots, much like its predecessor did. In one memorable scene, a villain puts an obscene number of bullet holes in a row of cars while missing his human targets. Because missing their targets in firefights is exactly what villains are for.
But something feels off this time around, like the film is trying too hard. It feels less like a sequel and more like a knockoff. Maybe it’s the lack of Morgan Freeman. Anthony Hopkins is great as a doddering scientist, but his character is more old than awesome. Like the original Red, the best parts of Red 2 are every moment that Helen Mirren is onscreen. Seriously, there’s nothing this woman can’t do. And while the whole cast does their best with the rather lackluster material they’re given, nobody does it better than the Dame.
Red 2 opens today in Philly area theaters.