[img]http://cdn.blu-raydefinition.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/RED-2-Blu-ray-Cover.jpg[/img]Releasing/Participating Studio(s): Summit Entertainment/LIONSGATE/DC Comics
Disc/Transfer Information: Region A; 1080p High-Definition 2.40:1 (Original Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1) 50GB Blu-ray Disc
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: Dean Parisot
Starring Cast: Bruce Willis, Anthony Hopkins, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Helen Mirren, John Malkovitch
You know, the packaging says ”Hilarious…Even better than the original!” but trust me, Red 2 was neither hilarious nor better than the first one. Mostly dumb and prodding in most places, the follow-up to the surprise hit doesn’t quite pack the comedic, off-the-wall punch Red did. I don’t know if it was the “pumping up” of the basic cast beyond Willis, Parker, Mirren and Malkovitch to include the always lovely Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins or if was a problem in the screenwriting or direction, but my wife fell asleep on it (she’s the one that really wanted to see it, not me) and I could barely wait until I was able to press the STOP and EJECT buttons on my Blu-ray player to switch the disc out. Was it as terrible as Vehicle 19 starring the now late Paul Walker? No. But I didn’t think it was good.
As always, I’m growing relentlessly tired of seeing Willis in these roles in which he plays a burned-out John McClane type seemingly possessing combat and espionage skills that would make James Bond’s face turn red; his facial gestures, annoying bald head at this point and dialogue delivery is so uber-cliché that he has almost become a caricature of himself a la De Niro and Pacino. Willis returns here as retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses who has gotten even closer with Mary-Louise Parker’s Sarah character, the two of them an official couple. With an opening sequence that depicts Frank and Sarah shopping in Costco, it isn’t long before old chum Marvin (an oddly behaving John Malkovitch) shows up in a parallel aisle Frank is going down to warn him of another “problem” involving espionage. Frank ignores it and when he and Sarah leave Costco they witness Marvin’s old Cherokee SUV explode into a fireball right in the parking lot – apparently nutty Marvin wasn’t lying. But is he dead?
At Marvin’s impromptu funeral, Frank manages to stick a few needles into Marvin’s hand while he’s in the coffin to see if he’s “really dead” but there’s no response. It isn’t long before the warnings Marvin made in Costco about new rogue elements coming after them reveal themselves to be true as Frank and Sarah suddenly find themselves caught in the midst of a plot involving a secret portable nuclear weapon and how Frank and his team have been accused by the British, American and Russian spy agencies of stealing it, even intending to use it. Helen Mirren’s Victoria character joins the foray as we eventually learn even she has been hired by MI6 to kill her old pals Frank and Marvin (who turns up alive after all). New to the story are Katja, played by the heavily-made-up but still gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones, a Soviet intelligence agent also looking for Frank and who also had a “fling” with before Sarah was in his life, plus Han Cho Cai (Byung-hun Lee), considered to be the “best hit man in the entire world” who is hired to kill Frank too, and Bailey (Anthony Hopkins), a loony scientist being held in a mental asylum outside London. Additionally, we meet Jack Horton (Neal McDonough), an American CIA operative bent on personally bringing Frank and his team down.
Frank and Sarah’s first run in with agent Horton comes when they’re wrangled up and dragged in for questioning about what they know regarding this portable nuclear weapon – Frank in particular, who is handcuffed in an interrogation room as Horton and his men kill everyone in route to the room. Once there, Horton threatens Frank about giving up the information about this weapon – which Frank and his team of retired operatives know nothing about – and when that goes wrong and Frank single-handedly takes out all of Horton’s thugs in an upbeat fight/action sequence, we are exposed to the fact that Marvin didn’t die in front of Costco that day…he helps Frank and Sarah escape through a daring in-wall rescue scene.
Frank, Sarah and Marvin are now all on the run with several dangerous agencies after them for blood – in addition to the incredibly strong and tactile hitman Han. They travel the world in Han’s private jet after an impromptu encounter between the retired agents and Han transpire in the streets of a European city and allow the “RED” status agents to fly away with the hitman’s plane. Their journey takes them to Paris where they meet with sultry Soviet spy Katja (Zeta-Jones) who informs them of her country’s plot to kill them as well for holding this portable weapon (which they don’t). We eventually meet “The Frog” (David Thewlis), a strange character who Frank and Katja believe can lead them to where this weapon is and who stole it, in a Paris café while all sorts of other hijinks break out as subplots as Han attempts to find the group, Horton desperately attempts to get to them as well and Sarah herself wants to get in on the action by posing as a Russian security guard at the Kremlin while the boys search for things in the catacombs of the Soviet government building. All of this was too much and silly after awhile, especially the dialogue that got a bit childish and off putting; I understand the point was to create a DC Comics-based parody of espionage thrillers that fuses comedic overtones with quasi-serious looks at the dangers of operative work, but Red 2 just lost my interest after awhile with so much going on.
Eventually, Frank and Katja pay a visit to Bailey, the nutball scientist being held at a maximum security mental ward somewhere in London. Apparently, Bailey knows where this weapon can be as he was the foremost authority on nuclear experimentation but the problem is the aging scientist is, apparently, so far gone mentally they can’t even get him to focus. Hopkins plays Bailey with an off-the-wall spryness that you can’t help but laugh at; I kept on trying to focus and remind myself that I was watching the guy who played a serious homicidal serial killer in Silence of the Lambs, Thor’s father in Paramount’s film adaptation of the famous Marvel comic and a possessed priest in The Rite. You can see Hopkins had fun with the role of the nutty Bailey and it added some refreshing interruption between Willis’ stagnant, cliché stereotype and the sometimes downright bizarre behavior exhibited by Malkovitch. Anyway, Katja and Moses manage to, with the help of Victoria who has also joined Frank’s foray instead of killing him like she was ordered to and who now has infiltrated the mental institution to keep it guard-free, get Bailey out of his cell as they continue to push forward in finding out who set the ex-CIA operatives up and why.
Eventually, a hand-to-hand combat sequence between Frank and Han breaks out which was choreographed and filmed well, ending in Han agreeing to help Frank and his men prove it wasn’t them who stole the weapon. But a twist you may never see coming with regard to who was behind this whole fiasco makes its way into the latter part of the film and in case there are those who have not yet seen Red 2 I won’t give it away. Suffice to say, I had my suspicions about this character at a certain point – but it was a nice plot manipulation nevertheless. We also get a return performance by Brian Cox as Ivan, the seriously dysfunctional Russian agent in love with Mirren’s Victoria, as well as a final sequence that hints at a third film, possibly.
This wasn’t my cup of tea. While the first one was a decent rental and inspired some chuckles, this one is just boring in some spots; if you were a fan of the first one give this one a spin but for me, I would not lose any sleep if I didn’t ever see it again. From the goofy dialogue to the downright disturbing and laughable costumes Willis and Malkovitch’s characters walk around in for unapparent reasons, Red 2 had me scratching my head regarding what all the hoopla is about surrounding this quasi-franchise.
[img]http://www.metro.us/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/WEK_RED2_0718.jpg[/img]VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
Under license by LIONSGATE, Summit Entertainment has released Red 2 on Blu-ray with a mostly great-looking MPEG-4 encode, the images exhibiting bright, sharp colors and eye-popping detail. The green of foliage in outdoor sunlit scenes came across with some of that neon-esque flair inherent to today’s high-definition displays and projectors, and this was overly apparent in sequences that depicted the sun reflecting on trees, plants and leaves. But the lack of film grain, digital noise, high camera ISO noise and other artifacting was the flip side of the coin here, with Red 2 exhibiting a solid overall presentation on Blu-ray.
Some moments were rendered with brief DVD-like softness and some detail went missing on extreme close ups of clothing some characters wore, but this was few and far between and for the most part this was a good-looking, if not reference-quality, disc.
[img] http://www.joblo.com/newsimages1/red2cb2.jpg[/img]AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
Curiously, like the first Red, the version I got for review of Red 2 on Blu-ray was equipped with a lossy legacy Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track in English – no lossless TrueHD or Master Audio to be found here. From what I understand, the film was released with a Master Audio track so I must have received a version from the handful of the “review and rental circuit” copies that went out. Be that as it may, I don’t think Red 2 suffered for it – running at a higher bitrate than it would have on standard DVD, the Dolby Digital track was aggressive when called upon, throwing bullets and gunfire into the appropriate channels and delivering dialogue cleanly enough through the center. The problem I had was with the overall lack of bass, bone-crunching dynamics and sheer brute force that the Blu-ray’s audio mix exhibited; almost from the very beginning, explosions and gunfights were rendered with just the right amount of surround balance but the impact of the action sequences didn’t rattle me. The explosions were kind of “soft” and restrained while heavy gunfire and machine gun violence didn’t resonate with any kind of seat-of-your-pants impact. Even a sequence involving Han shooting a ridiculously powerful automatic weapon at Frank and Marvin in Europe as it cuts the cars on the street in half from its ferocity didn’t shake my walls when I thought it would. The scene sounded great – and would have sounded even better if I turned my volume up – but it seemed to be lacking a depth of heft that I normally associate lossy Dolby tracks with.
Still, in the end, being that this is a film that incorporates comic book-like animation cells between certain scenes and one that’s supposed to be more lighthearted than one we should take seriously, I suppose the audio mix was appropriate for Red 2.
Thanks friends, as always, for reading.