Film review: Red 2 - Helen Mirren leads a cast of clapped-out has-beens


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The Independent Culture

And you thought The Expendables were a clapped-out bunch of has-beens. Audiences made the 2010 caper about ageing spies a surprise hit, so this sequel became unavoidable.

Ex-CIA assassin Bruce Willis is trying to lead the quiet life with his amour Mary-Louise Parker when old friend John Malkovich shows up to lure him out of retirement. Soon the three of them are on the trail of a doomsday device from the Cold War which other parties – aka The Forces of Darkness – are also eager to acquire.

Helen Mirren returns as a posh British ally, as does Catherine Zeta-Jones as Willis's old flame – and she can still "play him like a banjo at an Ozark hoedown". That's one of the better lines in a script that rarely strains to outrun a cliché, director Dean Parisot's principal concern being to amp up the mayhem and follow cars at speed through city streets: London, Paris and Moscow serve merely as a playpen for the silly antics.

Anthony Hopkins, the linchpin in a plot whose reveals and twists are piled high, looks as though he's barely read his lines, let alone learnt them. The joky refrain runs, "I didn't see that coming", though anyone with a moderate grounding in Hollywood action lore will actually have seen it coming a mile off. I'm all for actors still cutting it in middle age, but the material serving them is just arthritic.