Retired spy guy Frank Moses is a pretty happy fellow. He's all about building barbecue pits and scanning the Costco store shelves these days. It's a good, normal life. Which is exactly what Frank wants.
But he can sense that his girlfriend, Sarah, isn't quite so content. She hasn't really said anything negative. But a spy can sense these sort of things.
In a way, he can understand. All her life she's been reading about adventure and romance. And when she and Frank first met, he gave her a little taste of what real adventure looked like. I mean, shootouts and undercover work can make cookouts and store shelves full of paper towels and peanut butter seem a little less, uh, dynamic.
So when Frank's paranoid former partner, Marvin, shows up with ominous warnings, all Frank wants him to do is be quiet and disappear. But wouldn't you know it, Sarah overhears and is all ready to jump back into action. Sigh. This isn't what retired bliss is supposed to look like!
In spite of Frank's foot dragging, hemming and hawing (even outright refusals), it appears they'll have to do something, though. There's an Interpol assignment already in motion to eliminate anyone connected to an old Cold War-era mission called Nightshade—that he was a part of.
It was no big deal really, just a jaunt involving a suitcase nuke, a crazy scientist and the attempted destruction of the entire Soviet Union. The same old yada yada. Still, Frank, with Sarah in protective tow, will have to figure out why all this is now popping up on everyone's radar.
Then a call from Frank's old friend Victoria—the MI6 assassin—complicates things even further. It's turns out she's been assigned to hunt them down. And the world's most deadly killer, Han Cho Bai, has been given the knock-Frank-Moses-off nod as well. Frank's old flame, the Russian beauty Katja, is in the mix. And there's a U.S. covert specialist out there killing people too.
Oh well. Maybe they can barbecue next weekend.
Along with trying to save their own skins, Frank and his friends (including some who were initially sent to kill him) are working together, putting their lives on the line to stop a terrible catastrophe that could kill thousands if not millions of people. And even though they may be at odds with one another at times, it's also clear that Frank and his agent friends have a type of familial bond that they all respect and hold sacrosanct.
A funeral takes place in a nondescript church sanctuary. Marvin crosses himself at a particularly tense moment. Sarah gushes, "Thank God you're OK!" While dealing with a victim's dead body, Victoria murmurs, "Idle hands do the devil's work."
Katja is said to be Frank's "kryptonite," since they had a steamy relationship years before. When she first sees him again, she slinks up (while wearing a very low-cut top), grabs Frank by the back of the head and kisses him passionately. Sarah, meanwhile, kisses a French spy named Frog to get him to cooperate, then locks lips with a Russian guard to keep from having to shoot him. Frank and Sarah kiss as well.
The assassin Han is forced to strip (for security reasons). We see his naked torso from the waist up. When Frank and Marvin dive together for cover during a firefight, Frank cautiously asks his friend if what he feels poking his back is a stick of dynamite in Marvin's pocket. (It is.)
Just like its predecessor RED, RED 2 is filled with explosions, large-caliber weaponry and many deaths (nearly, but not quite bloodless). This time around, though, those deadly dealings feel a little more vicious. That's probably due to the fact that more ruthless killers are on the prowl.
The deep cover agent Jack, for instance, walks through a secret FBI holding station, brutally killing everyone he encounters with a silenced pistol. He has his men riddle a room with bullets to try to kill Frank. It's implied that he has tortured a man for a long time before we then see him throw the bloodied guy to the ground, snapping his neck. And when he's not shooting and murdering, he talks about doing so. He warns Frank that if he doesn't cooperate, his girlfriend Sarah will be "filleted"—then proceeds to describe the gory process.
The dreaded killer Han works in similar fashion. He uses his martial arts moves to batter and bludgeon rooms full of guards and policemen on a couple of different occasions, killing men up-close with everything from a ripped-free glass freezer door to a kicked pan to a photo that's folded to a sharp point. He also uses a mounted minigun to chew cars, a van and a building front into bits of smoking scrap metal and rubble. He and Frank get into it at one point, slamming and battering each other 'til their clothes are tattered and their faces are slashed and bleeding.
The "good" guys are equally deadly. The first time we see Victoria, for instance, she's at a scene where she's obviously just assassinated a handful of people. She casually chats on the phone while destroying their physical remains with acid. We also see her downing quite a few Russian guards with well-placed sniper shots.
A man is chased, hit with a car and then tortured for information. Marvin talks of having "caramelized" a torture victim's "onions" for a few days with acid and rats. He blows out a wall and several guards with a huge shotgun. Explosives rip out walls and send dead men flying. A helicopter and its pilot are obliterated in a nuclear blast. Vehicles erupt in balls of flame. A decoy vehicle filled with dead bodies brought in from someone's freezer is set on fire. Sarah shoots a guy in the chest with her new pistol (a "loving" present from Frank). Numerous men are stabbed in the chest. And lots of people are battered and bloodied with head slams, nose breaks and the like just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and a handful of s-words; one or two uses each of "d‑‑n," "b‑‑tard," "h‑‑‑," "b‑‑ch" and "a‑‑." God's name is misused twice and Jesus' once. A few crude references are made to male genitalia, including use of the British term "b-llocks."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Frank and Sarah have champagne while flying on a stolen airplane. They and their compatriots also drink celebratory shots of vodka later on. Frank downs a glass of wine that's been spiked with a knock-out drug; he thumps face-first to the table. Another spy samples and drinks a glass of wine. A guard has a needle full of a sedative jammed into his chest, knocking him out cold. Another man has a drug injected into his leg. A very dangerous neurotoxin is released in a plane's interior, killing about 10 men. Frank reminds us that Marvin was dosed with a hallucinogenic drug by the CIA for a decade.
Other Negative Elements
As a diversion, Marvin puts an explosive in the toilets of a Russian consulate, causing brown sewage to gush up to the ceiling.
In my review of RED back in 2010, I called it a "chocolate-drizzled deep-fried Twinkie of a movie." And for all of its problematic, comic book-like approach to human casualties, it had a certain goofy charm hidden up its set-out-to-pasture spy guy sleeve. The Retired but Extremely Dangerous espionage tale played out like a rejiggered version of Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys—only with hit men and governmental intrigue.
Now, a few years and about a $100 million in ticket sales later, the obligatory sequel is upon us … with its requisite "bigger is better" Hollywood formula dutifully applied. The cast of classic actors has grown, the trotting around for clues has gone global, the explosions have doubled, and the kills have quadrupled. The only thing that's diminished is … well, that goofy charm thing.
Frank's connection with his loopy, romance novel-reading girlfriend is tepid. The tale's nuclear caper is limping and predictable. And the old-but-still-got-it spies come off as a group that really is ready to be finished with the beat-'em-up work and off sipping iced fruit drinks by a nice umbrella-shaded pool.
All viewers get, then, is a series of amped-up but well-worn action sequences, a mounting tally of dead or dying, and a nuclear explosion that's shrugged off like one more annoying sign-up letter from the AARP.
Retirement might not always sit well with the James Bond types. But for some movie ideas, it can be the best choice for everyone involved.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Bruce Willis as Frank; John Malkovich as Marvin; Mary-Louise Parker as Sarah; Helen Mirren as Victoria; Catherine Zeta-Jones as Katja; Anthony Hopkins as Bailey; Byung-hun Lee as Han Cho Bai
Dean Parisot (Fun With Dick and Jane, Galaxy Quest, Home Fries)
July 19, 2013
Bob Hoose Bob Hoose