Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) knows where all the bodies are buried -- and that's not a metaphor. He does, literally, because he killed them. But now he's retired from the C.I.A and trying to grow yellow roses and keep his beautiful but feisty companion Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) out of danger.
But Sarah doesn't want to be kept safe. She'd like a little more excitement in her life thank you very much and a gun of her own (she has gun envy). Like many men of an uncertain age, Moses is struggling to keep up with the emotional demands of today's modern relationships as well as the strange twilight of retirement.
Marvin, another former C.I.A operative, is also finding life a bit lacking in thrills. As Marvin is played by John Malkovich, an actor with a seductive voice made for pillow talk in Venetian five star hotels, you know this movie is going to get twisted. And he clearly chose his own wardrobe for the film from Italian silk scarves under a cashmere plum sweater to a strange pair of plaid shorts and hobnail boots ensemble.
The third operative causing mayhem, now she's off the payroll, is the sublime Helen Mirren. She deadpans the most wonderful lines with elegant English irony. When asked where she found the dead bodies to fake a fatal crash, she looks into the middle distance and says, "My freezer." Genius.
Add in Anthony Hopkins (with plenty of sly Hannibal references) and Catherine Zeta-Jones camping it up in a deep Russian accent and an even deeper fake tan and you have a movie worth watching.
Bruce Willis as Moses mixes his Die Hard character with the witty, sexy, and exasperated by women but what-can-you-do-when-you-love-them David Addison type from his Moonlighting days. It's a charming combination, especially when you want to appeal to as wide an audience of possible.
The Red franchise (for this is number two) is an adaptation of a D.C. Comics product. And yes, on the surface, it does the usual fast-paced, guns-fighting-martial-arts and multiple locations type show. Which is no bad thing.
A smart (and very international market savvy move) is the hiring of Korean actor Byung-hun Lee who is not only a major movie star in Asia but also such a stunningly perfect physical human being that he's currently on the cover of Korean ELLE (with Zeta-Jones).
The women are equal to the men in Red 2. Parker is an excellent foil for Willis. And the re-invention of Catherine Zeta Jones as a camp icon is wonderful and career sustaining indeed. But the one who really sums up what a bitch it is to be considered past your prime is Mirren (who is in no way past hers). When an upstart agent tries to patronize Mirren saying her reputation passed him by because she was a "bit before his time" she swiftly attacks and pins him to the floor and says under her breath, "Well, you've heard of me now". Awesome delivery.
Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, noted that the number of age discrimination cases are now 43 percent higher than in 2000. This is not a generation that is retiring gracefully, as evidenced in Red 2, or willingly.
Age discrimination disputes aside, one of the huge problems in modern corporations is something the business gurus call "Knowledge Transfer" (colloquially known as "where the bodies are buried", usually referring to proprietary client information of an historical nature -- but Corporate America has a tendency to use movie terms to make itself feel a tiny bit more butch.) Part of the unpleasant tasks of the HR department today is the "Exit Interview" where this "Knowledge Transfer" is meant to take place upon retirement.
In Red 2, this is a crucial plot point. None of the paper pushers back at HQ were on the field, of course, so they have to draft in Willis and his crew to provide information stretching back to the Cold War.
However, we know Frank Moses and the others didn't get pink-slipped at the end of Red 2 because D.C. Comics has commissioned several new products in the Red franchise and the movie did a very respectable 18.5 million dollars on its US opening weekend. A most enjoyable movie indeed.