Directed by Dean Pariscot
with Bruce Willis, John Malkovitch, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung-Han Lee, Neil McDonough, Brian Cox
L to R: Hopkins, Zeta-Jones, Parker, Willis, Malkovitch, Mirre, Byung-Han Lee
When I was a kid we had Saturday Matinee pictures on Saturday mornings at the Modern cinema, and we’d all go with our cap guns and several rolls of caps, and shoot at the screen as Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers rode around grassy Los Angeles backlots shooting baddies by the score, painlessly and bloodlessly. ‘You’re dead!’ ‘OK, can I get up now? My turn!’ ‘Bang! Now you’re dead!’ I was eight.
The main difference between that and Reds 2 is the far higher body count nowadays. They must slay hundreds of anonymous guards, and being a 12, they follow the old Star Wars policy of it’s a guard with a gun in body armour with a helmet it doesn’t count, nor matter. At one point, Anthony Hopkins as the mad bad inventor (he’s been incarcerated by Mi6 for 32 years for planting a nuclear weapon of a new type in Moscow, and no one knows where it is), destroys a plane load of American guards with “nerve gas” (his description) then walks through shooting them as they twitch, shudder and fight for breath. Hang on, in September 2013, you think, nerve gas isn’t funny. Then you think, was it ever? What about bombs, spraying public areas with inexhaustible machine gun fire, was that ever funny?
This is one long video game slaughterfest with a stellar cast. It shouts out what Stephen Speilberg was saying only recently. If he was starting out in directing now, he’d stick to TV. The mini series: Sopranos, 24, The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Misfits, The Killing … dozens of them … are uniformly more absorbing and more character driven than mainstream cinema aimed at a 12 year old audience with an 8 year old shoot-em-up mentality. Twenty years ago, overseas sales were of little importance in planning a movie budget. Now 50% of revenue is non-English speaking countries, and they demand less talking, more explosions, more bullets. Add the demands of cinemas who want stuff so BIG that it’ll be comparatively weak on DVD even on blu-ray on large screen TVs. The result is this hugely expensive, professionally-filmed and directed, superbly acted, taughtly written, very funny piece of utter crap.
Zeta-Jones, Parker & Willis
Because yes, it is well-done. It is funny. Look on the IMDB if you want to know the plot. Basically they’re all agents and assassins trying to murder each other who unite to combat Anthony Hopkins and Save The World (my caps). The comic book credits and links … DC comics … show where it’s coming from. Helen Mirren is the murderous British one (dissolving her victims in an acid bath nonchalantly), Catherine Zeta-Jones the sexy Russian one, Bruce Willis is the Bruce Willis-type Die Hard pastiche of Bruce Willis (playing Bruce Willis), Anthony Hopkins … well, he’s been doing mad and evil as long as I remember. Byung-Han Lee is the Korean fast-moving, arm chopping, high-kicking, swirling, turning, jumping martial arts one. Neil McDonough is the cold psychopathic CIA double, treble or quadruple agent. I couldn’t follow which. Brian Cox is Helen Mirren’s Russian admirer. Do you really need to know any of this?
Obviously we flash between the USA, London, Paris and Moscow. All these things need multiple sets. In Paris the car chase by McLaren F1 (a mere £850,000 car) and Citroen 2CV is as spectacular as expected. The 2 CV is a nice touch, particularly when it gets totally jammed in an alley. The McLaren is out-Bonding the James Bond series. They’re both pursuing “The Frog” (David Thewlis). We have planes. We have helicopters. We have bombs. It’s a franchise. It’s number two. What do you expect?
Malkovitch, Parker & Willis
The saving grace, amidst so much appallingly criminal waste of film finance, and heavy acting talent misused, is that the American trio work so well together and are all very funny. That’s John Malkovich, Marie-Louise Parker and Bruce Willis. While Willis goes through more violent fight routines than you would think possible, and keeps coming up with his (increasingly Jack Nicholson-inspired) grin, Malkovitch and Parker have to support him, and actually manage to create likeable characterisation amidst the mayhem. Helen Mirren has to pretend to be mad to get into the secure facility where Hopkins is incarcerated, and acts mad by pretending she thinks she’s the Queen, a nice in-joke.
The IMDB gives it a 7.0 rating out of ten. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 5.2. Metacritic gives it 4.8. You have to rate the technical side and the cast. Two out of five here. The positive? I enjoyed it more than Skyfall, the last James Bond. And Helen Mirren was … hang on, no! It was Judi Dench. They’re all doing ageing action heroes! I guess it finances their long West End theatre runs, for which we should be (snobbishly) grateful.