RED 2

Sometimes it just clicks. Sometimes you get a bunch of actors who, on paper, seem like a motley crew for the ages but who work so well together that you wonder why they’re not in every movie. Sometimes a script is the spot-on synergy of action, intrigue, and flat-out comedy.

RED 2 may well be the movie you’ve been waiting all summer for– on par with Ocean’s Eleven in the caper movie field. It’s funny, it’s entertaining, and it’s really, really good.

Picking up several months after the events that closed the original, RED 2 starts where else but in the aisles of Costco, where retired operative Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is shopping for grills and jumbo shrimp with his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). Somewhere near the Tupperware aisle, Frank’s old colleague Marvin (John Malkovich) catches up with them and warns them that they’re not safe. They’ve been marked.

All we know (for the better part of the first hour) is that there was something called Project Nightingale and that it involved a portable nuke and that Marvin and Frank had something to do with it. Oh, and that the CIA, MI6, and the Pentagon (among others) are on their trail. Marvin gets killed in the parking lot (but not really), Frank just wants to get Sarah to a safe house, and trigger-happy Sarah only wants to get back out on a new mission.

Before long they hear from their old former-MI6 buddy Victoria (Helen Mirren), who lets them know she’s been hired to kill them, too. And if she can’t do the job, the world’s top assassin Han (Byung-hun Lee) is more than happy to do it himself.

Toss in a little David Thewlis, a generous helping of Anthony Hopkins, and a side order of Catherine Zeta-Jones, and now we’re really cookin’.

Director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) took over the reins from original RED director Robert Schwentke (who helmed this weekend’s abysmal R.I.P.D.). He not only keeps the lunacy and intrigue from the first outing going strong, he surpasses it. RED 2 doesn’t miss a step as it hops from Hong Kong to Paris to London to Russia (though most of them are just Montreal in disguise).

Willis proves that this spring’s horrible A Good Day to Die Hard was an aberration and not the new norm, Parker is just as quirky and scene-stealingly funny as she is in R.I.P.D. (though here she’s not the lone talent in a sea of drudgery), and Malkovich, honestly, hasn’t had more fun with a performance in the better part of a decade. It’s Hopkins, though, as a scatter-brained Nightingale vet, who’s the icing on the cake.

Screenwriting brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber (who wrote the original and are already working on a third installment) perfectly blend the action and the funny, and they wrap it all up with a keep-you-guessing, retro-cool Cold War vibe that helps make RED 2 not only one of summer’s better surprises but one of its better films, period.

4.5/5 stars