If you're inclined to see RED 2, it means you probably enjoyed RED. Already, you're a leg up on this reviewer, who didn't find the original all too stimulating. But my experience catching the sequel, situated in a theater surrounded by vehement fans of Bruce Willis' first turn as a former CIA man branded with the "Retired, Extremely Dangerous" label, was a wholly refreshing one. As with any sequel — especially those in the action- or adventure-comedy genre — half the fun is revisiting old favorite characters. That's the gambit of the opening act of a film like RED 2: to entertain questions of "Where are they now?" with the most delightful answers possible.
And even in the subdued reunion of Frank Moses (Willis) and his old partner and pal, certified loon Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), there's a sort of hearty warmth present. Laughter erupts when the latter emerges, incognito, from the aisles on a department store, on the prowl for his buddy in hopes of reattaching him to the mad glory of their younger days. There's nothing outstandingly funny going on, but you laugh and smile, already connected to these men and their relationship by the good graces of the first film.
While not accomplishing anything altogether new, this is the phenomenon that makes sequels such a spirited treasure: that feeling of "the gang's back together," in which the audience includes itself in that denomination. It's not only the people onscreen who are reteaming with old friends, but the fans who so engaged with RED in the first place — the sequel succeeds in making lovers of the original feel "involved" with the reunion, rewarding fandom with character-driven gags about Willis' stealth, Malkovich's madness, Helen Mirren's awesome frigidity, and Mary-Louise Parker's crazy-eyed bloodlust.
In fact, it's only when RED 2 gets away from its central gang that the film really crumbles. Setting its attention on a behemoth-concept plot, riddled with inexplicable twists and turns, the film comes off more mentally maligned than its characters at some point. When we are forced to spend time with newbie characters — charmless big bad Neal McDonough, disgruntled rookie Byung-hun Lee, and even the great Anthony Hopkins as a senile former agent — we await the return of the charismatic stars. Really just Malkovich, in fact.
Yes, the laughs aren't exactly overflowing in RED 2, but there is no short supply of joy in watching John Malkovich contort his face and worm through difficult conversations as the manipulative, maniacal Marvin. With such a command over nuanced comedy, Malkovich can turn the lackluster script into something of delightful flavor. Whether he's pleading with Willis to join him in the barracks, faking his own death, struggling to disarm a bomb, or draped inexplicably in Carmen Miranda garb, Malkovich is, indubitably, funny. In every other corner of this discombobulated picture, what with its stock characters and alarmingly nonsensical plot, you'll question what the hell these filmmakers are up to... and why, in fact, you're sticking around for the long haul. But as long as Malkovich is on screen, playing zany or basking in the fun familiarity of the RED team as constructed by the first movie, there is fun to be had.
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Less Transformers more Act of Valor director Peter Berg's Battleship is a bombastic idiotic and ear canal-shattering love letter to the Navy slathered with a summer blockbuster sugarcoating that sufficiently masks any glimmer of heart. Following suit with their previous adaptation Transformers toy company Hasbro has transformed their popular board game into a sci-fi action movie as stiff and lifeless as the plastic pieces used to play. The saving grace is Berg's fondness for the ridiculous injecting Top Gun-level machismo into his tale of aliens vs. boats. Silliness is cinematic buoyancy for a movie as lazy as Battleship.
Continually finding himself in trouble's way roughneck Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch of TV's Friday Night Lights and John Carter) enlists in the U.S. Navy alongside his boy scout brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgård) and under the supervision of his lady friend Sam's (Brooklyn Decker) overbearing father Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). Alex works his way up the chain of command quickly earning the rank of Lieutenant just in time for the annual competitive skirmish with the Japanese Navy. It's all fun and games until — per usual — aliens drop down from the stars and wreak havoc on Hawaii. With most of the fleet trapped on the outskirts thanks to a ship-proof forcefield Alex is forced to command his own ship and take down the intergalactic adversaries with old school style. Discombobulated radar in alien waters means Alex and his team are shooting blind — will B11 be a hit or a miss?
Kitsch spends most of his time rubbing shoulders with Petty Officer 'Weps' (Rihanna) and the rest of his diligent crew whipping up ways to defeat the alien forces who only go on the offensive when attacked. That's just the beginning of the storytelling's illogic moment after moment favoring Michael Bay-inspired mayhem and tensionless spats of screaming aboard the ship's bridge over coherency. There's an Independence Day-inspired moment where an alien creature palms Kitsch's face unleashing imagery of their devastated home planet to his mind. Maybe? That never comes back and an explanation of why the aliens are here why we're fighting them or if they're really that bad at all never comes into play. Kitsch and his men just know the world's under attack and we have to blow the opposition to smithereens.
Ensuring attentive brains are never too focused the perspective in Battleship is ever-shifting jumping from Alex's Destroyer to Sam and her paraplegic rehab patient Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales together on the run from alien ground troops. Around Battleship's halfway point when the duo partners with a twitchy scientist (Hamish Linklater) and Mick rises above his disability to beat the living daylights out of an extraterrestrial is when Berg throws his hands in the air stops caring and pulls out all the stops. Giant alien roller balls that rip up everything in their path? Check. Bouncing space ships that can only be combated using water displacement theory? Check. Navy vets returning for one…last…job? Check check. Before the finale of this 131 minute monstrosity Kitsch and his Japanese counterpart Yugi Nagata (Tadanobu Asano) sit down to play an actual game of Battleship. Sure it's with actual missiles but there's a grid there's a target and there's shouting out of corresponding numbers. For those worried about board game fan service it's there (but don't sit around waiting for the infamous tagline).
Unlike his turn in John Carter Kitsch is perfectly suited for the bro atmosphere of Battleship where every moment of drama begs for hammy delivery and crazy eyes. Decker too is an asset to the overly epic blockbuster — a step up from the reductive arm candy roles of the Transformers movies. Everyone else is barely a blip on the radar; Neeson is deprived of a single badass moment while Rihanna proves she can memorize and playback scripted lines as well as pop song lyrics. Berg has control of his action in a way that's more enjoyable than the previous Transformers films but it still plays like a tired clone. The initial two-thirds of Battleship that takes itself too seriously is exhausting. The final barrage is pure lunacy. Whether you can stay afloat for that long is the true test of heroism.
The big screen adaption of the DC comics starred Willis and Mirren alongside John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman as retired spies.
It has grossed $164 million (£109 million) to date worldwide since its release in October (10) and even landed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture - Musical or Comedy at this year's (11) ceremony.
And now bosses at Summit Entertainment have invited writers Erich and Jon Hoeber back to write a follow-up, according to Collider.com.
It is not yet known whether any of the original all-star cast will return for the planned sequel.
UPDATE: The project has officially been greenlit, though none of the stars are attached to return. So, woo?
Looks like Summit Entertainment thinks the world needs a little more old men and women with big guns teaching all these young ‘uns how they used to do it back in the day.
The studio has commissioned Red’s original scribes Jon and Erich Hoeber to pen a sequel and if it likes the script then they may go along with the follow up. Of course, the film would need its original cast back, which means fatter pay checks for Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Mary-Louise Parker. What’s that? Why didn’t I mention Morgan Freeman? BECAUSE HE DIED IN THE MOVIE. Oh yeah, spoiler alert.
And, this being a sequel means the producers are going to have to up the number of old people with guns. May I make a few suggestions? Geoffrey Rush with a bazooka. The guy Leonerd from Community (Richard Erdman) with ninja stars. Judi Dench with a katana. More of Mary-Louise Parker doing the possibly NSFW pie baking thing seen here. Just no damn Betty White!