Red 2

John Malkovich, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis
I gave Red high marks when I reviewed it back in October 2010, and sequels usually tend to not be as good as their predecessors. However, with Red 2, you're in for a rare treat: it's just as good as the original, and might actually even be better, a feat that is hard to achieve.

The entire gang returns from the original: Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich, and with Catherine Zeta-Jones joining the cast as Frank's (Bruce Willis) ex-girlfriend. In this installment, the team has to work together to find a "missing portable nuclear device," and their search takes them from London to Paris to Russia and back. Helen Mirren's character also informs them that she's been hired by MI6 to kill them, even though she later ends up helping them fake their deaths and helping them find the nuclear weapon. Anthony Hopkins stars as a "mad scientist" of sorts who knows where the weapon was hidden, and who the CIA has kept locked up for the past thirty-two years.

The characters were all spot-on in this movie, and they're all very witty; one of the things I liked most about the original Red is that it combined action sequences with banter and jokes. Not only does Helen Mirren's character have a contract to kill Willis and his friends, but another character, played by Byung-hun Lee (from G.I. Joe: Retaliation) has a vendetta against Willis as well, because he put him in jail, and is also out to kill him; later, however, (SEMI-SPOILER) he ends up helping them find the nuclear weapon, and there's a particularly funny scene where he banters with Willis about Willis's girlfriend (Parker) and how all of this "cloak and dagger" stuff will end up bringing them closer together.

Yes, see this film. You don't necessarily need to have seen the original to enjoy this film - one of the friends I saw it with did not, and still liked it - but it does help to fill in some of the holes in the backstory. Apparently the movies are based on a comic as well, and there were a lot of transitions in the film that were stylized in a comic book-style, and very cool. I hope to see this group of older fighters back on the big screen in Red 3 at some point, as the franchise seems to definitely have enough material for a third movie.

Red 2 is in theaters today, July 19th, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 100 minutes. 4 stars out of 5.

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