Back in 2010,  a comic book about a retired spy who finds his life in danger was turned into a big screen action-comedy.  “Red” boasted an impressive all-star cast of acting veterans that included Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren.   Although some industry observers thought this older cast might not click with young audiences, “Red” wound up becoming a solid box office hit.   Naturally, the studio decided to do a sequel and moviegoers should be happy they did.


As “Red 2” opens, we find former CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis) leading a boring life in suburbia. He does household shopping at the local Costco with girlfriend Sarah (the returning Mary-Louise Parker) and tries desperately to pretend he’s enjoying it.. His sweatpants-wearing lifestyle troubles former colleague, Marvin. (Excellently played once again by the hilarious John Malkovich.)  The eccentric agent intercepts Frank in one of the aisles and begs him to return to the old life.  “Frank, you haven’t killed anyone in months,” he tells his buddy.    Happily, that return comes quickly as rogue government officials are trying to clean up the loose ends of a Cold War project called “Nightshade”  that could embarrass the government as well as kill a few million people.   Frank is on their hit list so goes active,  reconnecting with old friends like former British agent Helen Mirren to find out what’s going on.   The action moves from London to Paris to Moscow as they take on the bad guys in some impressive high-action sequences.  “Red 2” roars along at a good pace, thanks to director Dean Parisot, whose credits include a lot of TV shows and a few movies, including the hilarious “GalaxyQuest,” and the not-so-funny re-make: “Fun with Dick and Jane.”


Happily, the gunplay, car chases and explosions aren’t the only points this film has going for it.  The sequel script came from “Red” screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber, who mix in a lot of humor, much of it aimed at Frank and Sarah’s struggling relationship.  (She wants to take part in the spy games, he wants to her to stay safe. )  Everyone is giving Frank advice on how to keep his lady happy.  “Just rent ‘Dirty Dancing’ and tell her you love here,” is one gem.    


More laughs come when the scene-stealing Catherine Zeta-Jones enters the picture as a Russian agent and Frank’s long-ago girlfriend.  There’s a delightful tension between the two women that’s very funny


The entire cast of the movie is fun to watch, including Korean actor Byung Hun Lee as a relentless contract killer with a long-simmering feud with Frank.  Other strong characters pop in and out for only a few short scenes.  “Red” veteran Brian Cox does a funny turn as a Russian spy with the hots for Helen Mirren’s character.  He does a roll call of her sexiest assets while she lays next to him, picking off bad guys with a sniper rife. 


Rounding out the cast is Anthony Hopkins as a British scientist who’s a genius at designing weapons of mass destruction.  It’s a pleasant change of pace to see the Oscar-winner doing comedy and doing it well.


“Red 2” does suffer from a few, over-the-top moments but this is one of those, “just go with it" movies.     The actors are great, the story is fun,  and the action has a high, “wow” factor.  Grab some popcorn and go see it.




3 ½ popcorn boxes out of 4