By Joan Ellis
A gang of greats has handed us a little laughter.
RED2 reunites Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Mary Louise Parker as they are lured from retirement for an assignment they all love: Killing bad guys and saving the world.
This second time out, Catherine Zeta Jones and Anthony Hopkins jump into the mix with questionable loyalties.
Leave your standards for the impossible, improbable and implausible at home. The movie announces at the outset that it is a cartoon by delivering cast pictures and scene shifts in cartoon drawings that speed ingeniously across the screen. This is an animated film concept with live actors – Tom and Jerry with real people.
You will remember from the first RED that the title stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. You will know then that Frank (Bruce Willis), Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) are the only living operatives clever enough to find and defuse a nuclear bomb planted by someone somewhere in Moscow. The path from here to there is littered with dead bodies, exploded cars, gross overkill and occasional laughs.
Scattered among the explosions are glimpses of what makes these characters endearing – or if that isn’t quite the right word – at least disarming. Bruce Willis’ Frank has the lovely mind of the devoted idealist who will use any tool to ensure the triumph of right over wrong.
He’s a simple guy, as Marvin describes him, whose simple needs are killing, eating and sexting. His measure of peers: “He could wire a bomb faster than anybody I ever met.” His measure of himself on hearing a distant sound: “Small arms gunfire, 200 yards.”
John Malkovich’s Marvin, wise elder statesman of the group, gives sage advice to friends and enemies alike as they move through Hong Kong, Washington, Paris, London and Moscow, confronting and dispatching a wide variety of deserving nutcases and unlucky innocents. In one of his better lines, Marvin says of Frank’s nearly fatal weakness: “Katja is Frank’s kryptonite.”
Frank found his soul mate in the last film when he discovered Sarah (Mary Louise Parker) in Kansas itching to be rescued from boredom and propriety. As an aspiring killer, she masters both the trade and the lingo in short order. Loaded with irony, her lines and facial expressions are among the funniest in the film.
The ultimate polish (nearly equaled by Malkovich’s quiet asides) is, of course, Helen Mirren. Watching her, an admirer says, is “the pleasure of watching a beautiful woman with an incredible gun.” So true – and we love her delight in playing at such odds with her usual roles.
Consider the ideal conditions for deciding to see this movie: A hot summer day for escaping the heat, a cold winter day for escaping the cold or a break from life’s serious responsibilities. It’s a movie that asks nothing of you other than that you settle in with a ready smile while the grand gang distracts you from your world.
Joan Ellis’ address on the Internet, which contains her review library, is JoanEllis.com.