After the surprise hit that was 2010's RED, then directed by Robert Schwentke, a sequel was inevitable. Based of the DC Comics comic of the same name, the film was a quirky, tongue-in-cheek, wink-wink actioner about a group of ex-spy operatives who are known as RED ("Retired Extremely Dangerous"), specifically Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) who simply wants to pursue romance with Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker), a middle-American customer service agent. However, he is targeted for termination by outside forces seeking to tie up loose ends from one of his past missions.
This time around, Moses is still trying to establish a normal life, unaware that Sarah is dissatisfied with the state of their relationship. Lunatic spy Mavin Biggs (the always entertaining John Malkovitch) warns Frank that they have been targeted yet again. The formula runs the same in "RED 2", but this time directed by Dean Pariost who, like he did in Galaxy Quest, brings a bit of gravitas amidst the lunacy. However, in comparison to the previous film, this works to the story's detriment. This time, Moses has to contend with three ghosts from his past, one of which is an agent with a grudge (G.I. Joe's Byung hun-Lee) recruited to kill him, another femme fatale agent recruited to seduce him (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and an asset that worked on a weapon of mass destruction (a very campy and clearly enjoying it Sir Anthony Hopkins). Helen Mirren and Brian Cox also return and are as delightful as they were before, while Neal McDonough takes on a similar role to that of Karl Urban in the previous film (alas sans the charm, humor, or sympathy of Urban's performance). All the actors make the most of their roles (and there is a geeky joy in watching two actors who've played Hannibal Lecter share a scene). However, while the witty repartee of the returning regulars is clearly in evidence, it gets bogged down by Pariost's darker direction. It's more streamlined than the first outing, but not as breezy; there are scenes that could have been edited more tightly. Reflecting this darker turn is the score by Alan Silvestri, who eschews Christopher Beck's fun score for something more in line with any generic actioner.
Yet RED 2 is still fun and enjoyable. Despite it being a more streamlined film, it's still carried by the interpersonal relationships by the characters, who are all clearly having a good time with tongues firmly planted in cheek. In this case, exotic locations and enjoyable performances a good film make.
Besides, any movie that asserts that baldness denotes sexual virility can't be all bad. ;)