Red 2 ’s returning cast charms once again

Red 2 is more fun than a sequel has a right to be. Even though this action-comedy retread’s script follows the blueprint for the 2010 original to the letter, the movie’s wry comic turns, if not its noisy, high body-count violence, are surprisingly entertaining,

In the interest of self-preservation, retired CIA black ops agents Frank Moses and Marvin Boggs are forced back to the international espionage business. Bruce Willis and John Malkovich reprise their roles as the law partnership-sounding Moses and Boggs. Mary-Louise Parker does an expanded encore as Willis’ girlfriend, Sarah. Helen Mirren engages in more deadpan blasting as Moses and Boggs’ colleague, Victoria, the icily efficient British assassin.

Red 2 begins with furtive warnings from Boggs to Moses. They’re coming, Boggs says. He can feel it. And besides, he chastises Moses, “You haven’t killed anybody for months.”

Moses doesn’t want to hear it. He’s happily retired, enjoying a shopping trip to Costco with Sarah. But when Boggs is killed in car bomb in the Costco parking lot, normality can be no more.

Red 2 races along, hurling Boggs, who doesn’t really die in the parking lot bombing, and Moses into an urgent hunt for a long-hidden weapon of mass destruction.

Helmed by a new director, Dean Parisot, but written by Red’s returning sibling screenwriters, Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, Red 2 leaps from one international locale to another. The frequent flying is made possible by the jet Moses and Boggs steal from an assassin hired to slay Moses.

The movie’s many and frequent action sequences aren’t particularly special. They are energetic and, true to Red 2’s overall tone, in line with the film’s comic arc. The real charm of Red 2, though, is the cast.

Old pros Willis, Malkovich and Mirren demonstrate an easy comic rapport. Besides a paycheck, the trio’s performances suggest the actors agreed to do another Red movie simply to be in each other’s company again. Their age is part of the story, but it never slows them or the action down.

Parker’s Sarah enters the middle of the mayhem, too, as she becomes an enthusiastic amateur agent whose clumsy exploits fuel comic sequences. Also aboard for the ride are a regal Catherine Zeta-Jones as Russian agent Katja and Byung Hun Lee as Han as the world’s greatest assassin.

Red 2 features three Oscar-winning cast members, Mirren, Zeta-Jones and, playing the movie’s gleefully mad scientist, Anthony Hopkins.

As skilled as Hopkins is at playing proper characters of the kind seen in Howard’s End and The Remains of the Day, those same reserved qualities help make his mad characters, such as Hannibal Lector in The Silence of the Lambs, all the more entertaining.

It’s fun seeing Hopkins portray Red 2’s nutty professor, Dr. Edward Bailey. His sly, electric performance as a madman suddenly sprung to do his strange bidding complements and lifts the whole movie.

Because this sequel is as fresh as it is, Willis, Malkovich, Mirren and Parker appear destined to continue the story of retired agents who can’t stay retired. If the studio sees green this weekend, audiences may well see Red 3.