Frank (Bruce Willis) is settling down in his retirement from the C.I.A. with his girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), but after their last, shared adventure she is wishing for more excitement in their lives when he cannot be bothered with the high octane existence anymore. Another person hoping Frank will be persuaded back to his old ways is Marvin (John Malkovich), his former colleague who approaches him in a supermarket and begins pleading, pointing out Frank hasn't killed anyone in ages. But the ex-spook is determined to stay just that, though as Marvin drives off there is a shock as his car is spun into the air by a bomb: could there be someone out to get Frank as well?
What do you think? This was the sequel to the modest but enjoyable action flick for the oldies RED, whose main novelty was to see all those ageing stars get up to the sort of shenanigans stars half their age would be more appropriately getting up to. That was unless you were a star like Bruce Willis and those of his vintage who audiences still wanted to see kicking ass no matter how more likely it would for them to play someone for whom the most exertion should really have been stirring their tea or playing Scrabble. However, that wouldn't make for entertaining movies, and so it was the likes of Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone kept ploughing their respective macho man furrows.
While Bruce's contemporaries were throwing themselves into these affairs with gusto, he was claiming headlines for the opposite reaction: his Red 2 press junket was littered with journos emerging with very little to show for their questions, and the general impression was of a star for whom the appeal of his job had long since departed. That was in spite of evidence Willis could nevertheless show a bit of the old sparkle in selected examples of the less showy roles he had been taking, but everyone tended to recall those high profile films, usually in franchises, where his lack of interest was all too noticeable - or maybe years of answering the same questions over and over again was taking its toll. In this case, on the other hand, a bunch of fellow stars out to have a good time was having a beneficial effect.
It could be down to Willis playing a character as world-weary as he felt in real life, but in Red 2 his exasperation and wishes for a quieter time of it, allied with actors who were obviously amused to have been asked to perform these stunts (when their stunt doubles were not doing so), coaxed what looked dangerously like a proper performance in an actual action movie from him. Malkovich's Marvin isn't dead, naturally, but Frank nearly is when he is taken into custody at the funeral by the agents he used to work for and interrogated about a top secret project which he was one of the few to know about, except he has no idea what they're referring to (although when you do find out what it is, it's something anyone who has watched a couple of James Bond movies could have accurately guessed).
To cut a long story short, Frank escapes when crazed agent Neal McDonough shows up and kills almost everyone in the building, then takes Marvin and the newly energised Sarah to Europe, all to track down the man who does know what Nightshade is (David Thewlis as a deliberately unlikely badass). As this was a comedy after a fashion, there are many quips and sitcom situations only with violence to appreciate, though the biggest joke was death itself, with the coldblooded capacity for murder painted as the ne plus ultra of action movie humour, with no boring explanation or justification, you just had to accept that old geezers gunning down henchmen was automatically amusing, perhaps as far as you could go from the line of laughs propogated by that instigated by the eighties heyday of the genre. The considerably younger Lee Byung-hun was also here as a hitman, the world's greatest, assigned to stop Frank, and Anthony Hopkins was the wacky villain in a devil may care performance; Helen Mirren capitalised on her unlikely killer instinct once again. Fair. Music by Alan Silvestri.