Sometimes we all need to lighten up and have a good laugh. Life is serious business, but let’s face it, spending an hour and half laughing your head off will definitely make you feel better. With this weekend’s release of the new spy flick RED 2 you have the opportunity to do just that.
Directed by Dean Parisot as a sequel to RED (retired and extremely dangerous), RED 2 is a stand-alone story you can enjoy even if you didn’t see the original. Both films are action-packed spoofs of grim espionage dramas in which a handful of elite agents must rescue or save an individual, a nation, or the world from imminent destruction.
In the case of RED 2, a team of former black-ops agents must come out of retirement (shopping at Costco anyone?) to retrieve a portable nuclear device before it’s used to destroy millions of people. Bruce Willis as Frank Moses heads the team with the help of his goofy sidekick, Marvin Boggs, played to hilariously loony perfection by John Malkovich. MI6 agent Victoria (Helen Mirren), Russian femme fatale Katja (an over-tanned Catherine Zeta-Jones), and Korean killing machine Han Cho Bai (Byung-hun Lee) join them.
Shooting, explosions, and people dying right and left punctuate the PG-13 film, but there is hardly any blood, and the violence is so over-the-top and at times absurd that it’s nearly impossible to take any of it seriously—and that’s the point. The movie is a spoof: All the actors know it’s a spoof and the audience knows it’s a spoof, making its pretense as a serious, self-important “save-the-word” film even more amusing.
Granted, there are some crass jokes peppered throughout and there is a second or two of implied rear nudity during one scene when Lee’s character must walk naked through a full-body scanner to check for weapons. Despite this screening, he’s still able to assassinate an Asian underlord using a piece of paper, folded origami-style. There is also some impassioned kissing, including an uncomfortably long kiss between Willis’ and Zeta-Jones’ characters, but it doesn’t take long to realize that it, too, is part of the whole shtick.
RED 2 could easily have fallen into the trap of Schwarzenegger-style obnoxiousness or the crass world of Austin Powers, but it manages to avoid both. The success of this film hinges not only on the gravitas of the star-studded cast and the deadpan delivery of their punch lines, but also on the perfectly paced script written by Jon and Eric Hoeber, Warren Ellis, and Cully Hamner. Without such well-written jokes, both spoken and implied (Boggs sneaking into the Iranian Embassy under the guise of defecting to Iran), RED 2 would undoubtedly have fallen flat. But it doesn’t, rising buoyantly instead to the upper echelons of the summer action movie lineup.