By Roger Moore McClatchy-Tribune News Service
They bicker, emotionally blackmail each other, kiss and make up. Because they have history.
But Bruce Willis and John Malkovich aren’t the “real” couple at the heart of “RED 2,” the action comedy sequel about retired government assassins.
They’re just part of a love triangle, one that Mary Louise Parker completes. Her character, Sarah, may be Frank’s (Willis) dizzy but decreasingly naive lady love, but Marvin (Malkovich) is the one who gullibly fills her in on this bloody if exciting life they’ve led and somehow continue to lead. And he’s the one who gives her guns.
Frank is incredulous. But as the bullets fly and the plot thickens, once mild-mannered Sarah gets into the spirit of things entirely too quickly.
The joy of “RED” was seeing a cast packed with Oscar winners (Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine) and very good actors (Malkovich, Parker, Brian Cox and Karl Urban) flesh out and class up a Bruce Willis action film.
“Codgers make the coolest killers” was its motto.
And if anything, this “Retired, Extremely Dangerous” sequel ups the ante. There’s a new acronym — “ICE: Incarcerated, Cannot Execute.”
They’ve replaced killed-off Oscar winners with Anthony Hopkins as an addled old scientist and Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian agent and one-time lady love of Frank’s. And the change in directors to comedy specialist Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”) means there’s a laugh a minute amid all this mayhem.
Mirren returns as her droller-than-droll MI6 assassin, Brian Cox reprises his Russian spy boss. And David Thewlis shows up as a sadistic spy and snooty wine lover.
Some bit players are bland, but the difference between Willis in the more recent “Die Hards” and here is that of an exhausted old man forced to repeat himself and carry a movie, versus a lark where he gives action cred to supporting players who do the heavy, funny lifting.
It’s all ground we’ve sort of covered before and things do tend to drag before the too-violent third act turns too bloody.
But “Red 2” goes down easily, from Malkovich’s demented moments of relationship advice to Dame Helen’s tender and amusing “Hitchcock” reunion with Sir Anthony. There’s a knowing twinkle in their eyes, and in everybody else’s.
“Red 2” (2 stars)
This sequel ups the action ante with a pack of great actors doing the heavy lifting. It’s a little slow in the beginning and a little bloody in the end, but with great and hilarious moments and throughout. With Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung-hun Lee and David Thewlis.
Rated: PG-13 for violence, language and drug material.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marsyville, Stanwood, Pacific Place, Thorton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.