Red 2 Movie Review 0 51

Red 2 movie review
It’s become a trend over these last few years for Hollywood action movies to shed their light back onto the stars of the past who are still around but can’t quite shoot guns or chase bad guys the way they used to. But movies like The Expendables and its sequel, The Last Stand and Bullet to the Head (to name but a few) are determined to show that these guys have still got it, while at the same time constantly reminding the audience that the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis are “too old for this shit.” Needless to say the constant reminders have gotten old, pardon the pun.
One such geriatric action movie, for lack of a better phrase, was Red. Based on a celebrated comic book series, it brought together Willis, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren as ex-CIA agents (the titular acronym stands for Retired Extremely Dangerous) brought back into the action. It was entertaining, for its novelty factor if nothing else. Now off the back of the first film’s success we have the aptly (lazily?) titled Red 2, which brings Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and South Korean superstar Byung-hun Lee into the fold.
The plot this time around suffers from the same thing a lot sequels do – trying to go bigger just for the sake of it. Frank (Willis) is now back to being happily retired with his wife Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) but upon the warning of the off-kilter Marvin (Malkovich), he is brought back out of his quiet suburban life to help track down a missing nuclear device that was smuggled into Russia decades prior. Hot on their heels is Han (Lee), described as the best assassin in the world, and Jack Horton (Neal McDonough) who has been hired by the CIA to clean up the increasing mess.
Much of the fun of the first film was just seeing these old timers brought together to shoot big guns and punch bad guys that in reality wouldn’t be taken down so easily – the sight of Helen Mirren at the barrel of a giant machine gun, for instance, was worth the price of admission alone. That novelty has worn off this time around but the film survives on the one-liners thrown around as if they’re going out of fashion and the general light-heartedness often missing from this new spate of olden day action hero movies.
The comedic tone and fun casting make up for the action which often veers from silly to pedestrian. It frequently mistakes being bombastic for being exciting and engaging and only makes you yearn for the explosions to stop and for it get back to the enjoyable character interplay. Speaking of which, new additions Hopkins and Zeta-Jones inject fresh comedy into the proceedings – Hopkins as a sort of mad scientist who has been locked away for 30-odd years and Zeta-Jones as former love interest of Frank’s now turning his wife’s face green with envy – while Lee provides some of the few nifty fight scenes in an otherwise generic series of set-pieces. The weak link in the chain is McDonough; the actor is perfectly good in the role but his ruthless character feels like a substitute for Karl Urban from the first film.
Red 2 exemplifies what makes this now established franchise the diverting entertainment that it is; the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sure, that means the overblown nuclear-themed plot is nothing more than throwaway and you never really feel like the stakes are high enough to truly care about whether or not any of the characters die along the way. But it’s light, undemanding fun and that’s absolutely fine.

[youtube id=”ziineUe0nuI” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Red 2 is released in UK cinemas on August 2nd.
Previous ArticleNext Article
I'm a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features. I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Movie Review: Home Again 0 530

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 556

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10

Warning: mysql_query(): Access denied for user 'rtmiller'@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 17

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 17

Warning: mysql_fetch_row() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 17

Warning: mysql_query(): Access denied for user 'rtmiller'@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 45

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 45

Warning: mysql_query(): Access denied for user 'rtmiller'@'localhost' (using password: NO) in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 47

Warning: mysql_query(): A link to the server could not be established in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 47

Warning: mysql_fetch_row() expects parameter 1 to be resource, boolean given in /home2/rtmiller/public_html/wp-content/plugins/vsf-simple-stats/vsf_simple_stats_shutdown.php on line 47