A flat gin and tonic? RED 2

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The original RED was like a crisp, bubbly gin and tonic on a hot summer day: refreshing, predictable yet surprisingly fun, and (uber-confidently) offering no nutritional value.

The sequel – with the unremarkable title RED 2 – is like that bottle of tonic water you find in the back of the refrigerator in August: still useful, but kinda flat, redundant, and probably should have been thrown away before you used it.

Did I have fun watching RED 2? I sure did. Do I remember what the heck I just watched? Not really.

The plot is pretty much a retread of the original, which was a fun critique of our ageist society’s awful tendency to decide that some “older” folks have passed their “sell-by” date…when said folks still have plenty of kick-ass, world-changing rage left in them.

Bruce Willis is still doing that bald, pursed lip thing he always does (which is somehow weirdly acceptable in this context) and the always reliable John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, and Mary Louise Parker save the day with some wonderful community theatre-esque character work. (I do wish, one day, Parker could play a character who isn’t so pathetically co-dependent, given the anti-co-dependent-co-dependency she blasted so caustically well in Angels in America. Ah, well.)

The film, in essence, becomes a sequence of zany hats that Malkovich wears to comic effect as the troupe moves its way across numerous Euro-ish locales in pursuit of a nuclear weapon of some inconsequential stripe.

God love Catherine Zeta-Jones who is so good but is so saddled with the world’s worst be-banged wig in a key supporting role. (Michael Douglas, I’m not sure, but I kinda think you ruined this Welsh ROCK STAR.) And the also dependable Neal McDonough (whose hair gets more orange whose and skin gets more khaki with every role) is truly wasted as the big bad, though he does wring a laugh or two out of the lame script. (Don’t even get me started on poor David Thewlis who is annoyingly hamstrung with a stupid role as a wine-obsessed intelligence broker.)

It sounds like I hated this movie. I didn’t. I liked it a lot. But everyone involved – including Anthony Hopkins as a quirky and evil(!!!) arms developer – deserved a MUCH better script.

In fact, I suspect we will watch this flick about 18 more times on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon when STARZ repeats this over and over. (It will play much better on a small screen.) It’s just too bad: such a collection of fun stars ready to kick out the jams…and given a script that is nothing but regurgitated jelly.

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