dir Robert Schwentke
scr Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber
prd Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mark Vahradian
with Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker, Brian Cox, Julian McMahon, Rebecca Pidgeon, Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine, James Remar
release US 15.Oct.10, UK 22.Oct.10
10/US Summit 1h51
Still up for it: Mirren, Willis and Freeman

malkovich urban parker
RED 2 (2013)
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RED Based on the graphic novel, this action-comedy has a wacky tone that's entertaining but never involving. At least the strong all-star cast makes the most of the vivid characters, and the film's visual style keeps us watching even if there's nothing to it.

When "Retired, Extremely Dangerous" Frank Moses (Willis) has his quiet life disrupted by trigger-happy commandos he goes on the run, kidnapping a hapless pension clerk (Parker) to protect her from a ruthless high-tech hitman (Urban) who's chasing him. He then reassembles the old team from his black ops days, including smooth womaniser Joe (Freeman), paranoid nutjob Marvin (Malkovich) and seductive Victoria (Mirren). He even gets in touch with his former Russian nemesis Ivan (Cox). It all has something to do with a scandal involving the American Vice President (McMahon).

The film is made in such a way that the plot is utterly irrelevant. Each scene is a bundle of goofy dialog and attitude-filled characters, most of whom have complicated personal issues. And the bombastic violence is played for laughs, which makes it impossible to feel any suspense. At least the inventive action scenes reveal details about each character. So the film isn't as dumb as it looks. But there's nothing going on beneath the surface either.

Along the way, there are some terrific moments, mainly in the scenes featuring Cox and/or Mirren, who actually generate some hilarious chemistry. On the other hand, the simmering romance between Willis and Parker is a non-starter. But it's great to see so many mature stars together on screen giving hammy, knowing performances that more than make up for the over-serious The Expendables. These retirees have just as much oomph as the youngsters, and rather a lot more experience.

With its potentially edgy political narrative, it's a pity the film is so preposterous and uninteresting. This is also yet another hyper-violent movie that's been cynically edited down to a PG-13 rating despite its continual brutality. The cast and crew just about get away with it, mainly because the energetic action/espionage scenes are so enjoyably chaotic. But these set pieces are also ridiculously over-the-top, which leaves the film feeling utterly pointless. Although maybe the vacuous action is the point.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 18.Oct.10

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