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Stop Worrying and Love the Gun

MOVIE REVIEW
Red 2 (2013)

Red-2-movie-review-bruce-willis-john-malkovich-mary-louise-parker
Jan Thijs/Summit Entertainment

In “Red 2,” Bruce Willis’s retired C.I.A. operative Frank Moses and his former unwitting hostage/ward, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), very briefly enjoy their domestic bliss shopping at Costco before Marvin (John Malkovich) suddenly emerges from the next aisle urging them to join him. A Cold War-era document concerning a missing nuclear weapon has surfaced online (opportunity to name-drop WikiLeaks/Reddit/2chan missed), implicating Frank and Marvin by name. Just about every major power’s intelligence agency, infiltrated by its own bloodthirsty warmonger, wants to capture the two in order to secure the weapon of mass destruction and serve its particular agenda. And Frank’s friend (Helen Mirren), foe (Lee Byung-hun) and old flame (Catherine Zeta-Jones) have each enlisted to be hot on his trail.

What transpires is a globe-trotting tale of espionage peppered with breathtaking action set pieces, reminiscent of the rebooted “Mission: Impossible” series with Tom Cruise. And “Red 2” is a particularly good one at that, worthy of comparison with Brad Bird’s hugely successful “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.” The most spectacular thing in “Red 2” doesn’t involve its star dangling from a skyscraper, though. In fact, it comes in the form of the South Korean actor, Mr. Lee. His villainy is such a delicious sight to behold that, when he’s through fighting, the entire auditorium is actually cheering for him. You want him to live another day for his inevitable big showdown with Mr. Willis.

The fluidity between good and evil here is actually the coolest aspect of the movie. Without giving too much away, the film gets totally awesome when Frank eventually recruits some of his archenemies to help save the day. You see, Frank needs all the help he can get because he’s facing a Dr. Strangelove-esque terrorist played by Anthony Hopkins, who has apparently been secreted inside a mental institution for decades, scribbling on the wall and listening to classical music as if he were going to dine on some fava beans with a nice Chianti. Aside from blatant plugs for Papa John’s and the aforementioned Costco, the most irksome aspect of the film is its equally gratuitous underlying pro-National Rifle Association politics. It’s not that surprising coming from a Bruce Willis flick, but its thesis of gun lovers being morally superior to bomb lovers is still entirely suspect.

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