Action sequel RED 2 is now in cinemas. Harry Guerin gives his verdict.
Eating the coating off a Brunch and then throwing away the rest of the ice cream; squeezing through seven at the five items or fewer checkout; singing along to Nelly and Tim McGraw's Over and Over - we all have our guilty pleasures. And for some, it's the joy in watching serious ac-tors 'slumming' it in action movies. You know, like Richard Burton and Richard Harris in The Wild Geese, Michael Caine in On Deadly Ground or John Malkovich and Helen Mirren in 2010's RED. In this not-too-shabby sequel, M &M are joined by another of the greats, Anthony Hopkins, for quadruple crosses, quick getaways and, naturally, clunky exposition. If you didn't see the first movie, no matter - as befits its comic book origins you can pick up RED 2 as easy as the stars (probably) learned their lines.
The story finds former covert op Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and girlfriend Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) on the run - and on the hunt for something that has forced them to go on the run (it's that kind of movie). As they clock up a hefty carbon footprint - Paris, Mos-cow and London - they're keeping funeral directors in the black, but in between the carnage Frank is also trying to deal with the complexities, commitments and compromises of a long-term relationship. He's better at killing people.
Some critics haven't been as kind to this high concept hokum as they were to the original, but for any punter who enjoy shootouts and smartasses the biggest disappointment in RED 2 could be the failure to shoe-horn Christopher Walken somewhere into the storyline. Him and Malkovich trading slow lines and marbles-in-a-jar eyeballs? Fantasies are made of this.
Compensating somewhat for Walken's absence is a great little performance from Hopkins, cast here as a bewildered, pipe-smoking boffin and convincing you that the next Bond would be the better movie for having him in it. You also get Catherine Zeta-Jones as a Russian spy, but they don't make enough of her and there was the potential for far more comedy between herself and the excellent Parker. It's the same story with Mirren, although foot fetishists will be thrilled to discover that they can go to the next life having seen her shoeless, in black stockings, with a sniper's rifle. Brian Cox, you lucky dog.
No third movie, please - the last scene here is the perfect way to end things.