Film Review: Red 2 – Electric Boogaloo

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th September 2013.

Remember that movie from 2010 which featured Dame Helen Mirren at the helm of a .50 calibre machine gun? Red, which is an acronym for Retired, Extremely Dangerous, also starred “mature” actors Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich playing against type as former black-ops agents called back into action when their lives are threatened by assassins. Oh, and the film was headlined by Bruce Willis playing, um, Bruce Willis. A modest hit at the box office, Red was buoyed by the novelty of seeing highly regarded dramatic actors blowing stuff up.

In yet another example of an unwanted sequel (Kick-Ass 2, The Smurfs 2 or Grown Ups 2 anyone?), Willis, Mirren and Malkovich are joined by Catherine Zeta-Jones and SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS* for even more geriatric hijinks, except that this time there is absolutely no novelty value. Just more of the same…

Frank Moses (Willis) is making an earnest effort to enjoy his retirement with girlfriend Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) when a failed mission from his past returns to haunt him. Reuniting with former colleagues Marvin Boggs (Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich) and Victoria (Mirren), Moses attempts to track down a nuclear weapon hidden beneath the Kremlin by brilliant yet crazy physicist Dr Edward Bailey (SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS). With Russian secret agent, and Moses’ former flame, Katya (Zeta-Jones) plus the world’s best assassin Han Jo-bae (Lee Byung-hun) on their trail, the team blast their way through Paris, London and Moscow.

Red 2 marks three sequels in a row for Bruce Willis who nowadays seems to be acting on autopilot with the engine on smug. I’m pretty certain that you could take scenes from A Good Day to Die Hard, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Red 2, cut them together and you would never know they are from different films. I’m not entirely sure that Lee Byung-hun, who has now co-starred with Willis on two consecutive films, was even aware that he had moved on to a new production. Explosions… Guns… Bruce Willis… Which film is this anyway?

There is also some very obvious product placement which sees entire scenes take place inside a Costco store and a Papa John’s Pizza outlet. Surely in a movie based on a comic book (there are even animated transitions between scenes to remind you), some fictional stores would suffice? I suppose we all need to eat. And when I eat I like to shop at Costco and enjoy a piping hot pie from Papa John’s Pizza! Cheques can be forwarded to me via the CWD.

Red 2 is not without its charms. There is great chemistry between the leads which generates plenty of funny quips and put-downs. Malkovich steals the show with his mentally unstable Marvin Boggs, a victim of decades of daily LSD doses as an experiment by the CIA. And Mary Louise-Parker is clearly having a great time as Moses’ girlfriend who longs for the exciting life of a secret agent.

Director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) has managed to put together an unremarkable but largely enjoyable sequel that does very little to advance the franchise. For my money, watch the original again instead.

*An actor of such magnitude as SIR ANTHONY HOPKINS requires that you say his name aloud whenever reading this review, no matter where you are enjoying this column. Thank you for your cooperation.

Published in: on September 10, 2013 at 23:52  Leave a Comment  
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Being John Malkovich 2: Being Lara Bingle

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 10th July 2012.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the sequel to the Spike Jonze comedy Being John Malkovich. It finally premiered on TV a few weeks ago but so far I’m not impressed. Being Lara Bingle has none of the indie charm of the original and I’m still waiting for Josh, Sharon or Hermonie to find the portal that leads literally into Lara’s head. I guess when that happens we’ll finally find out if one can breathe in a vacuum.

The Expendables 2: my handpicked cast

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 17th May 2011.

Action flick The Expendables (2010) was a major hit, grossing US$266 million from an US$80 million budget. Under the direction of Sylvester Stallone, the film brought together a dream team of eighties and nineties action stars, many of whom had never appeared on screen together before, such as Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rouke, Dolph Lungren and Arnold Schwartzenegger. With little plot but many explosions, the film itself was a bit of a letdown for action movie fans but the box office dollars have ensured that a sequel is in the works and set for release in 2012.

With the majority of the original cast returning for more mayhem, there is speculation about who else might be joining the lineup. Here are my suggestions for The Expendables 2.

Sammo Hung has enjoyed a lengthy career in Asia, starring, directing, producing and fight choreographing many films throughout the seventies until now. His biggest successes have been kung fu action comedies that have capitalized on his rather portly frame, such as Enter the Fat Dragon (1979) and Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon (1990). In Australia, he is best known for his TV series Martial Law, which ran for 2 seasons between 1998 and 2000. Reportedly, Hung had very poor English at the time and was taught his lines phonetically. In other scenes, he said nothing at all. With a similar command of the English language as Sylvester Stallone, Hung would be perfect for The Expendables.

Cynthia Rothrock burst onto the B grade action flick scene in the eighties and has appeared in over thirty films including No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) and China O’Brien (1988). A five time World Karate Champion, Rothrock was a rarity in that as a Caucasian actress (and I use that term loosely) she became a star in Asia well before gaining any fame Stateside. Rothrock would add some much needed butt kicking estrogen to a mega macho cast.

Apparently Chuck Norris’ computer doesn’t have a “Ctrl” key because he is always in total control. Norris began his career opposite Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon (1972) and went on to star in many brain numbing but fun eighties action films such as Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), Missing in Action (1984) and The Delta Force (1986). His TV series Walker, Texas Ranger ran from 1993 to 2001. As Cordell Walker, Norris played a half white, half Native American Ranger who delivers justice with his unique blend of the old west and eastern martial arts. As you do. Norris could easily portray the facial hair specialist in The Expendables.

If you are after an aftershave that will bring out the washed up eighties action star in you, why not consider Steven Seagal’s Scent of Action? For the energy drink fans there is also Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt. Did I mention that he also has a range of homeopathic oils? Seagal is currently a Reserve Deputy Chief of the Sheriff’s Officer in Louisiana. Hopefully he will track down and arrest some criminals, namely those responsible for his recent slew of terrible direct to DVD movies. Seagal could also provide the soundtrack to The Expendables 2, having two albums to his name, one of which featured a duet with Stevie Wonder. Obviously Wonder agreed to work with him because he’s never seen one of his movies (boom boom).

The Expendables 2 is sure to be a major hit. And with Sylvester Stallone confirming that he won’t be directing, it is also sure to be watchable too. With a bevy of faded, bloated aging action heroes likely to be pulled out of mothballs for each subsequent sequel, perhaps this testosterone laden series should be renamed The Expandables.