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Red 2 review: global positioning

Red 2 green light Catherine Zeta-Jones Mary-Louise Parker Bruce Willis

Smart, breezy spy action, with an of-the-moment vibe that takes it post-post-9/11 and into the Wikileaks era of global politics.
I’m “biast” (pro): loved the first film

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Action movies have become so same-old same-old that it doesn’t take much to make them fun again. Ensuring that the women — yes, plural — are more than just damsels in distress is a good start, and not only do we have kick-ass supersecret agents in Helen Mirren’s (Monsters University) MI-6 operative and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Broken City) as a Russian spy, we also get Mary-Louise Parker (Howl), who is just plain bored with retired badass Bruce Willis (A Good Day to Die Hard), because he only wants to be domestic these days. And then black-ops crazypants John Malkovich (Warm Bodies) shows up and drags them into something, and she’s all lovey-dovey cooing like, “Isn’t this cool? We’re on a mission together!” Also she gets a gun from Malkovich. Gee, Hollywood, do we really want all these old people looking stylish and sexy with their guns and their globetrotting espionage? (Yes. Yes, we do.) Seriously: the “baby” here is 43-year-old Byung-hun Lee (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) as a Korean freelance lethal weapon the CIA hires to take out Willis, because a document from 1979 about something very very very bad he was involved in called Project Nightshade shows up on the Internet — hello, Wikileaks! — and the real secret of Nightshade must never be revealed. Turns out Willis doesn’t know what that real secret is, either, but now he has to find out before somebody kills him (and Parker) over it. A breezy tongue-in-cheek flick about the thing that Nightshade turns out to be about should probably be a wrong thing, but this is so right, from an actually character-driven car chase through the streets of Paris (the film also gets to London and Moscow) to the smart, peppy competence of every single character to the unexpected sense of global responsibility that brings together soldiers of different nations with, ostensibly, objectives that are at odds with one another. There’s a quality to Red 2 that even the first film didn’t quite manage, hinting that the rules of international intrigue have changed, and that we’ve moved into a post-post-9/11 era of truly global concerns driven by information that cannot — and should not — be kept secret. There’s a freshness in that, too, and the light touch means there’s nothing wonky in it. It’s almost post political, in fact, which is a very provocative place for a movie about spies, perhaps the ultimate nationalists, to be.

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