Basically, there's a next-gen nuclear bomb dubbed "Nightshade" that has surfaced after decades of being lost. The device is tied to Frank's past (and people in it), and rather quickly he finds himself duly framed, wanted, and on the run. The mission isn’t just to find the bomb but also to clear his name. As stakes go it's boilerplate but enough to kickstart a globe-trotting excursion into international intrigue, heavy-duty shoot-em-ups, high-speed car chases, visceral fights, and the occasional explosion.

RED 2 does just about everything RED did, just not quite as well. The original had a breezy charm and sophisticated wink to its proceedings, some strong character dynamics, and did it all with flair. The sequel makes attempts at all the same elements, but this time the execution is often forced. Despite the return of the first film's screenwriters, the banter feels both simplistic and desperate (with actors occasionally mugging for laughs), and the running joke of Frank and Sarah's domestic squabbles (she wants adventure, he's over-protective) is generic and wears thin almost immediately. The characters, too, come off more as "types" and little else, with only Hopkins offering layers that feel spontaneous or surprising.

After a slow start in a Costco, the tempo ramps up as the film strikes a nice balance between action scenes and character interludes (basic though they may be). It's not wall-to-wall overkill; RED 2 has just the right amount of action – and when it does, it pours it on through gunplay, martial arts, both on the streets and through the air. Nevertheless, while the action is staged with competence, energy, and even occasional invention, it lacks style. To the extent it has any, director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest, and new to this franchise) merely rips-off and restages the original RED's signature stunts and visual gags.

It's also important to note that while the violence is relatively bloodless, it's very intense at times – replete with bones breaking, occasional stabbings, bullet-riddled destruction, and a high body count. Though unlikely to induce nightmares, parents may still find its cavalier approach to mass-scale violence inappropriate for children.

It's been twenty-five years since Bruce Willis went from small screen fame to big screen stardom with 1988's unexpected hit Die Hard, a movie that reinvented the action template and still serves as a standard-bearing touchstone. A few recent flicks this year have tried to recapture that Old School Action but failed (a fifth Die Hard, for one, along with a couple of "Die Hard in The White House" flops). Red 2 won’t be a classic by any stretch, and is really nothing more than an entertaining (if instantly-forgettable) distraction, but it plays like the classics well enough to at least make you feel like you got your money's worth.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: Casual drinking of wine. Narcotics used by agents to drug people.
  • Language/Profanity: Three uses of the S-word, four uses of the B-word, one A-word, and two instances of crude language synonyms for male genitals.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: A few instances of passionate kissing. Partial buttocks nudity seen in non-sexual context.
  • Violence/Other: Multiple point-blank gun killings. A lot of gunplay, destruction, shooting and killing indiscriminately, and an overall high body count. A man is stabbed in neck with a chair-leg. A man is smothered to death with a pillow. Bodies put in tubs and melted with acid (though the melting is not seen). A man is hit by a speeding car. Several violent fights, with martial arts; bones heard breaking, people are killed. Some destruction by explosions.

Publication date: July 19, 2013