Making the Grades
Despite their graying heads and advancing years, the retired CIA agents in Red 2 can still outshoot, outsmart and outlast legions of much younger, armed and highly trained attackers. Based on comic book characters, the movie reunites Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich) and Victoria Winters (Helen Mirren) after a WikiLeaks report links them to a nuclear bomb hidden somewhere in Russia.
The weapon’s creator, Dr. Edward Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) is locked up deep inside a heavily guarded CIA prison. But that doesn’t stop the three spies and Frank’s much younger girlfriend (Mary-Louise Parker) from waltzing into the facility as easily as they would a Costco. (Wait! At Costco you at least have to show picture ID.)
Victoria and Frank finally make it to Bailey’s inner cell wearing white coats and stethoscopes, but not before they’ve mowed down a dozen or so innocent office staff members and security guards. Supposedly a lifetime of rampant killing has hardened these agents who now prefer a take-no-prisoners approach to obstacles. With Bailey’s help, the foursome manages to steal the concealed bomb right out from under the noses of Frank’s former Russian girlfriend Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and the Kremlin military. Still, they aren’t the only ones interested in retrieving the deadly device.
Guns blaze constantly in this action film with countless bodies piling up by the time the credits roll. However death by shooting isn’t the only method employed by these characters. Strangulation, stabbing, suffocation, grenades and origami (yes, origami) are also used to cut lives short. And punching, kicking, spiders and large wrenches are used to rough up people. Of course all of this mayhem occurs with tongue-in-cheek humor. On one hand this comedic atmosphere lessens the severity of the endless stream of killings. Yet there is something disturbing about laughing at these senseless murders—particularly when Dr. Bailey nonchalantly picks off incapacitated U.S. soldiers who have done nothing wrong other than to fulfill their duty.
Although the characters in this story are apparently too old for on-screen sexual activity, Frank and his girlfriend Sarah canoodle between shootings. And a few couples, including old flames and complete strangers, exchange some pretty passionate kisses.
Aimed at a demographic that will find Willis’ bald head beautiful and Mirren’s gray hair charming, Red 2 may be hard-pressed to lure teens into the theater. And that’s okay. While these actors (and their stunt people) do their best to convince viewers that aging CIA agents can hold their own on the frontlines of crime, most older audience members would do better to sit back and accept this film for what it is—geriatric fantasy.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Red 2.
Does an aging population of Yuppies make a film about older characters more likely to find an audience? What opportunities do these scripts give to aging actors? What talents and experience do these performers bring to the big screen?
Sarah proves to be the weakest link in this foursome. How does she grow in her capacity to contribute to the team? How does her innocence about the danger they are facing make her more eager to be involved?
How does this film’s comedic attitude make the storyline feel less serious? Is there danger in showing these kinds of violent depictions in a humorous way? Would this storyline have played as well if it took itself very seriously?