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Bipolarity and over-complication stifle "RED 2" (DVD Review)

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RED 2 (2013)

Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren

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Fresh off his latest escapade, ex-special agent Frank Moses (Willis) is living a happily-re-retired life. He's done fighting the bad guys. He's done with the undercover missions. He's retired and he's staying retired. That is, until his former teammate, Marvin Boggs (Malkovich) shows up and warns Frank that they are in terrible danger. Having been mixed up in a scandal about something called "Nightshade," Frank, Marvin, and untrained tag-along Sarah (Parker) find themselves on the run yet again. MI6 has put out a hit for the retired agents and many of the biggest bounty hunters are in on it, including another former teammate, Victoria (Mirren), and Han (Byung-hun Lee), the best contract killer in the world. Against their will, Frank, Marvin, and the gang must yet again prove why they remain labeled "Retired, Extremely Dangerous."

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The Breakdown:

The Story: Based on the formidable team of retired secret agents in the DC Comics universe, "RED 2" rounds up some of the biggest names in Hollywood for a fast-paced thrill ride. The team must band together to uncover dangerous secrets that have spanned decades. Failure to do so would result in a world-wide catastrophe. Pretty standard plot for an action film, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. However, when you take a standard plot and convolute it with a seemingly-infinite amount of twists and turns, the story becomes confusing and rather difficult to follow.

The Acting: Willis and Malkovich carry the movie squarely on their shoulders. Mary-Louise Parker's caracter, Sarah, is meant to stick out as the untrained girlfriend that's basically along for the ride, but action just isn't Parker's genre. She is intended to come off a little goofy and provide some comic relief, but she ends up being annoying and awkward and is largely over-shadowed by her mega-celebrity co-stars. It's good to know that Catherine Zeta-Jones is still alive, but she passed her prime long ago... and she plays a Russian in the film, which is just weird. "RED" newcomer Byung-hun Lee is one of the bright spots in the movie, stealing the show with a couple of his action scenes, primarily one set in a convenience store. In a sentence, half of the cast shines while the other half struggles to catch up.

The Genre: "RED 2" is a movie where you practically need to turn your brain off and just enjoy the ride, but, even to the untrained eye, some of the special effects here and there look a little hokey and cheap. One thing is for certain: No bullets were spared in the production of this movie and it feels a little overwhelming. The paradox here is that the movie, which will mainly appeal to more mature audiences (read: older people), is incredibly violent throughout. While that generation may enjoy seeing some of their favorite actors come together on screen, the excessive violence end up being a turn-off for them in the end.

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"RED 2" is a hit-and-miss affair. The all-star cast is certainly a plus and it definitely has enough action to go around. There are also a few parts of the movie that are genuinely funny. However, the sheer amount of violence is a bit unnerving and the fact that they try to seem so light-hearted about spraying bullets in every direction is also disturbing. The main problem with "RED 2" is that it can't really make up its mind about whether it wants to be an action movie or a comedy. It would have worked better as an action film because the things they try to joke about just aren't that funny. Take, for instance, one scene, as seen in the movie's trailers, where Helen Mirren's character is talking on the phone with Bruce Willis whilst nonchalantly killing a man in a bathtub like it's her job. Well... it IS her job. But it's just not that funny. Is it an action movie? Is it a comedy? Pick an angle and stick with it. This isn't to say that you can't include humor in an action movie, but indecisively trying hard to be both an action movie AND a comedy causes the movie to fall flat in general. The other problem, as previously alluded to, is that there are so many twists and so much double-crossing and flip-flopping throughout the movie that it's really hard to tell what's going on. Simplicity is bliss, as they say, and perhaps "RED 2" tries a little too hard in some aspects.

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Similar movies: "RED" (2010), "The Other Guys" (2010), "Miss Congeniality" (2000)

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DVD bonus features:

- Audio in English, Spanish

- Subtitles in English, Spanish

- No other features available on rental version.

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Directed by: Dean Parisot

Studio: Summit Entertainment

Running time: 116 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 for "pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material." Also, several references to male anatomy, some sexual innuendo, an incident depicting human waste, torture, and violence against women.

Costars Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung-hun Lee, Anthony Hopkins, David Thewlis, Neal McDonough

DVD release date: November 26, 2013

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