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Retired blackops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing, next-generation lethal device that can change the balance of world power. To succeed, they'll need to survive an army of relentless assassins, ruthless terrorists and a power-crazed government. (From Summit’s official synopsis)

 Red 2
I’ll start this brief review off with an acknowledgement that I have never seen Robert Schwentke’s Red. I am aware of its basic concept, plot, and the film’s qualities/problems, but have not had the time to draw my own conclusion. My opinions of Dean Parisot’s Red 2 are based on its standalone qualities and my assumptions surrounding its prequel.

Parisot seems like a good choice for a light-hearted action tryst. He isn’t the most prolific filmmaker, but his last two films, Galaxy Quest (great) and Fun with Dick and Jane (eh…) seem to fit the bill. Minus the destructive violence, of course. Red 2 recycles some of those films’ general themes, especially the concept of a ‘normal’ person (in this case, Frank’s girlfriend, Sarah, played by Mary-Louise Parker) placed in the kind of wacky situation that only occurs in the movies. Parisot doesn’t skimp on cruelty in the film’s violence and allows his characters to be appropriately mean-spirited without being entirely unlikable. I’m a little disappointed that Red 2 doesn’t aim R-rating with more grotesque bloodshed (the occasional gross-out would’ve added nice comedic texture), but appreciate the filmmakers didn’t soften things too much for the PG-13. Parisot’s action and effects direction is better than anticipated, largely because he and his second unit people hold the camera relatively still and capture everything that happens without excessive editing. There’s weight and discernible momentum to the fisticuffs, shoot-outs, and car chases. What’s missing is the same thing that’s missing from the rest of the film – originality. Even well-structured action is no substitute for something fresh and new.

 Red 2
My interest in these films revolves mostly around my interest in writer Warren Ellis, who wrote the original comic that inspired them. Despite his massive influence on modern superhero storytelling, somehow, Ellis’ work was left out of the live-action super hero movie scene until the first Red was made in 2010. Unfortunately, the Red comic was a three-issue one-off that isn’t really indicative of his skills as a writer. He did, however, create the Extremis concept that was used for Iron Man 3, so some of his techno-sociological-obsessed style has adapted to the medium (perhaps someday we’ll also see a Transmetropolitan movie, but I’m not holding my breath). This sequel bears the concept’s basic premise, but Jon & Erich Hoeber’s screenplay feels more like an ensemble comedy piece than an action satire. The tone works pretty well, thanks to some genuinely good jokes, a cast that knows how to tell them, and Parisot’s strengths with this type of faux off-the-cuff humour. Nothing ever approaches the chaotic genius of Galaxy Quest, but there are some chuckles to be had. The problem is that the writers are way too comfortable with the material. Even without having seen the previous film, I can tell that they’re re-treading old ground and, even if they aren’t, they’re leaning heavily on genre conventions without subverting them beyond the character types. It becomes harder to care about anything that is happening and easier to notice that no one is really trying.

The Red movies are, clearly, exploitation films. They are exploiting the public’s apparent desire to see old, established actors in ridiculously violent action movie situations. See also: the Expendables movies. Between those two movies, this one, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, it seems Bruce Willis is making a career out of making fun of himself these days. Red 2’s cast is certainly impressive, including returning members Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Parker, and ‘fresh’ talent, like Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung-hun Lee, Brian Cox, and David Thewlis. Simply having Lee, Thewlis, and Cox in the same movie together is enough to raise an eyebrow, even if the finished film wastes them on extended cameos. Viewers expecting no more than this will probably be happy, but there’s something of an Expendables effect going on, where the brevity of some appearances is more annoying than entertaining. At least everyone seems to be having a good time.

 Red 2

Video


Red 2 was shot on 35mm and is presented in 2.40:1, 1080p video on this Blu-ray. The picture quality is typical for a modern, light-hearted action flick, including heavy blacks, soft highlights, and vivid, computer-assisted colours. Parisot and cinematographer Enrique Chediak tend to use shallow focus and this makes for some shallow details, but the heavy contrast levels even things out with some hard lines and crisp edges (when the deep blacks are crushing out darker details, of course). The close-up skin and clothing textures are sharp and the less common wide-angle shots are plenty busy with fine patterns. The 35mm base shows itself with a fine sheen of grain and some minor edge enhancement, but there aren’t any notable compression effects, like macro-blocking or low-level noise. The palette is honeyed enough for skin tones to appear yellow or orange and blue elements to turn slightly green (or, you know, teal, because everything is teal these days). These are further contrasted against an eclectic series of highlights, usually poppy reds or oranges. Though occasionally unnatural, these hues are very consistent, tightly separated (aside from a bit of bleed during the darkest scenes), and brighter than any DVD version could manage.

 Red 2

Audio


This Blu-ray features a big, busy, action-movie-tastic DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. The mix is poppy, embracing the wide dynamic ranges between the low-key dialogue scenes and the physics-defying action scenes. The best sequences maintain this punchy approach, filling the channels with intricate noise, not an impenetrable wall of sound. The action effects are snappy, instead of simply loud. The directional momentum is effective and fully immersive, especially during the bone-crunching car chases and LFE vibrating shoot-outs. Alan Silvestri’s score is an unexpected mix of ‘90s adventure movie music, modern, techno-infused action music, and bluesy rock that defines most scenes as standalone sequences. It’s a patchwork approach, but it works for the material. The music drives the action well without overwhelming it.

Extras


The extras begin with The Red 2 Experience (34:40, HD) a two-part featurette that is broken into discussions about the cast/characters and the film’s weapons and stunts. Interviews include Parisot, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, screenwriters Eric and Jon Hoeber, stunt coordinator/2nd unit director Paul Jennings, and cast members Willis, Mirren, Malkovich, Parker, Hopkins, Zeta-Jones, and Lee. The extras also include a deleted scene reel (4:30, HD), a gag reel (4:20, HD), and trailers for other Summit/Lionsgate releases.

 Red 2

Overall


Red 2 doesn’t offend with bad filmmaking, a nonsense screenplay, or weak performances – it just doesn’t do much else to justify its existence. It’s here, because the first one was popular and no one really cares enough to do more than the bare minimum. If there’ any consolation, it’s that Dean Parisot makes a better generic action movie than most supposed ‘action directors’ and that Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Brian Cox are still perfectly charming, even when they don’t care. This Blu-ray’s image and audio qualities are strong, but the extras are limited to a couple of fluffy featurettes, some brief deleted scenes, and a gag reel.

 Red 2

 Red 2

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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