PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

More Mayhem and Eccentricity in 'Red 2'

Everyone looks to be having fun in Red 2, an action film that doesn’t feel the need to brood.

Red 2

Director: Dean Parisot
Cast: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Year: 2013
US date: 2013-07-19 (General release)
UK date: 2013-08-02 (General release)

If you’re looking for a poster child for the sequelitis that has afflicted Hollywood, Bruce Willis would be a worthy candidate. This year alone, he reprised his most enduring role in A Good Day to Die Hard, the fifth outing for that series, and joined the G.I. Joe franchise for its second go-around. Last year, he appeared in The Expendables 2 and he is slated to be in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For next year.

So it is no surprise that this summer brings yet another sequel for Willis. In Red 2, he returns as Frank Moses, a former CIA agent who can’t escape his past. That past is premised on the acronym "RED," which -- as you may recall -- alludes to the Retired, Extremely Dangerous ex-spies who are considered by their next generational replacements to be especially lethal, and so, in need of monitoring, containment, or worse.

Indeed, in the first film, Frank was forced out of retirement when a hit squad tried to take him out. He took the civilian Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) on the run with him, and reconnected with fellow former operatives Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich), and Victoria (Helen Mirren): the result was action-movie mayhem spiced with old people being "eccentric," not a terrible combination in this case. Red offered a great cast who chewed their way through scenes and never took themselves very seriously. Just so, Red 2 pulls off the trick that eludes most sequels, giving the audience more of what worked in the original without being an exact and lumbering retread.

The new film opens on Frank and Sarah at Costco. They have settled into a mundane domesticity in the suburbs, which suits Frank just fine, since he wants nothing more than to have a long and safe life with the woman he loves. Sarah, however, is starting to get bored. Lucky for her -- and us -- Marvin shows up at the Costco, raving about a plot to have them all killed, which sends everyone spiraling into a new adventure.

They learn that their imminent termination is motivated by charges that they are international terrorists. And so of course they must travel internationally (from Paris to London to Moscow) to track down culprits, redeem themselves, and probably save the world too. This last idea is underlined when they pursue a weapon of mass destruction codenamed Nightshade (because such things must have codenames) that has been hidden for 35 years. It's best not to try to impose any logic on the plot, which is largely incomprehensible. Red 2 is merely an excuse to spend a couple of hours with the characters again.

And that's fine. Marvin persists with his full-on crazy conspiracy theories (and Malkovich is delightful, as ever) and Victoria remains prim and proper, even when she is dissolving her latest marks in acid in hotel bathrooms. Their antic exchanges are enhanced by equally brilliant newcomers, like the devious scientist Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), who has been imprisoned for decades for building the hidden WMD, and sultry Russian operative Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whose romantic past with Frank quite irritates Sarah.

Even for that irritation, everyone looks to be having fun in Red 2, an action film that doesn’t feel the need to brood. The tone is more like the James Bond of the Roger Moore era than the tortured spy played by Daniel Craig. It's welcome as well during a summer season when even Superman has gone dark and become morally ambiguous.

Red 2's frothy mix of stunts and jokes is lightweight throughout. The many car chases aren’t going to impress anyone who has seen the Fast and Furious sequels, but they offer the pleasure of watching Helen Mirren firing guns out of spinning cars with undisguised enthusiasm. Moments like that pretty much ensure that this franchise won’t be retired any time soon.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.