Retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Willis) reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. To succeed, they’ll need to survive assassins, terrorists and power-crazed government officials, all eager to get their hands on the superweapon.
Bruce Willis is back, playing the retired but extremely dangerous (where the Red of the title gets its name) Frank Moses, who has settled down with his girlfriend of the first flick, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker). Frank seems happy to be out of the 'life', but it's actually Sarah who wants Frank to become a man of action once again. The opening scenes of the movie find the couple shopping at a Costco (the first of some blatantly obvious product placement in Red 2), where they run into Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), who warns Frank that there's someone after them.
It isn't long before both Frank and Sarah are in the thick of things again, being pursued by a CIA agent (played by Neal McDonough) who has categorized Frank and Marvin as terrorists in the eyes of the U.S. government. Frank's adventures will have him teaming up once again with MI6's Victoria (Helen Mirren), being chased by Korean hitman Han Cho Bai (Byung Hun Lee), crossing paths with former flame and current Russian agent Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and searching for a Cold War scientist (Anthony Hopkins) who may hold all the answers. The events of Red 2 also take the cast globetrotting around the world to locations in Paris, London, and Moscow – with most of the exterior scenes actually shot on location in each respective city.
Now, we've all heard stories about Bruce Willis' behavior on movie sets (thank you Kevin Smith and Sylvester Stallone), and usually, his on-screen performances are a reflection of how interested in the film he really was. I can only guess that Willis was more than happy with the production of Red 2, as he's both the charming and bad-ass Bruce we know and love in this movie. It almost makes us forgive him for A Good Day To Die Hard. Hey, I said almost!
The most appealing, and therefore the most watchable actor in Red 2, however, isn't Willis – it's John Malkovich, who embeds his character of Marvin Boggs with so much goofiness and wide-eyed wonder that you wish he was the lead of the movie rather than serving as a sidekick. Mary-Louise Parker's character is also a joy to watch – emitting both innocence and sexiness at the same time, as she strives to become a worthy partner to the other spies she's assisting. Not so fun or believable is Anthony Hopkins, who goes over-the-top with his character both early on and later in the movie, where events change the way he's portrayed.
While the banter between the main characters proves to be the best part of Red 2, the action sequences – while well-shot – seem to come too frequently and go on a little too long. At 116 minutes, Red 2 would have been a much better-paced film if edited down a bit. I understand the desire of the filmmakers to get as much of their action budget up on screen as possible, but less would have been much, much more in this case.
Overall, though, there's plenty to like and little to hate about Red 2. It's by no means a great film, but it's an enjoyable one, and where I left the first movie having no desire to see the characters again, I left this sequel hoping for at least one more reunion.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Red 2 comes with a dual-layered UHD66 Disc and a Region A locked Blu-ray Disc. There is an insert for a Digital HD copy. The discs are housed in an eco-friendly, hard, black plastic case with a cardboard sleeve too.
Red 2 shoots its way onto 4K UHD with a 2160p transfer and is presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. This video presentation also comes with Dolby Vision (and HDR10 for those without Dolby Vision displays). This 4K presentation is a definite upgrade from the prior Blu-ray release thanks to richer colors, better contrast, and more vivid detail. The whole picture looks more saturated than the first film with warmer colors throughout. Don't get me wrong, the film still has that cool blue palette, and for a movie called Red, there isn't much of the titular color, but with the brighter blues, greens, and red/orange explosions, the image looks deeper and bolder. Black levels are deep and inky in all lighting conditions and never become murky.
Detail is also upgraded from the Blu-ray version. Wrinkles, facial pores, sweat beads, and makeup blemishes are more defined and noticeable, as are the individual furs on coats and costumes. The scuff marks on guns and cars also glisten in the light too. Wider shots never go soft either, showcasing brick and stone buildings very well. During the heavy CGI moments, certain visual effects can look soft, but it's not a huge problem. There were no significant issues with any compression problems either, leaving this 4K presentation with good marks.
This release comes with an excellent Dolby Atmos track that upgrades the standard 7.1 mix. Those overhead sound effects drive this one home with a fully immersive and explosive soundscape (you might even look up to see if there's a vehicle over your head). There is no shortage of explosions or guns shots. Each gun blast is deep with bass and has great directionality. Explosions, like the one at Costco, rattle the walls in the best ways, but also provide some overhead noises of falling debris, fire, and other small explosions. This sequel is filled with moments like this. Other quieter moments sound just as good and provide the natural reverb and echo when in large rooms. The score always adds to the intensity of each scene and the bass is always smooth and never over-bearing. Lastly, the dialogue is clear and easy to follow along with, and free of all pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills.
Red 2 is a fun sequel that has more explosions, laughs, and gunshots than the first film, if that was remotely possible. Hint: it is. These actors look like they had a great time on set handling the giant guns and having choreographed fight scenes together. Their chemistry is infectious, and you'll want to spend more times with them on screen. The upgraded 4K UHD with Dolby Vision is the way to watch this film for sure, as it brings out the richer colors and deeper detail, even in the heavier action sequences. The Dolby Atmos track also provides an excellent upgrade in the sound department. Your speakers will definitely get a workout. There are no new extras, but all previous bonus features are available on the Blu-ray Disc. Recommended!.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.