Something of a surprise smash two years back, Red
initially appeared nothing more than a particularly cynical marketing strategy aimed at shoehorning a few surviving lions of the silver screen (Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich) into a retired-spy revenge vehicle sufficiently explosive to raise eyebrows of the kids actually keeping theaters afloat. Miraculously, the film itself, utterly au courant hyperviolent snark intercut with the droll sentimentality of another era, managed taut pacing, wry observation and a towering likability. Charm alone fuels Red 2
—a rangy, luxuriant bonhomie that incorporates Mirren’s bloodlust as readily as franchise newcomer Anthony Hopkins' malevolent twinkle—but that doesn't quite excuse the script’s senior moments or the fundamental sloppiness of Dean Parisot’s direction. Whereas Red
's interstitial flashes of comic-panel art served to highlight the material's four-color origins and remind audiences not to take it too seriously, Red 2
is just visually chaotic. Shorn of the breakneck pace and moments of genuine menace that strung tension throughout the original (however outlandish the plot or scene-chewing the Malkovich), this isn't much of a film, and we doubt the franchise will age well.