RED 2 (MA 15+)
RED was something of a mild success, a comic book adaptation without the fanfare but with the oddest bunch of oldie agents around.
While not in the same category as other DC or Marvel comic fare, a high-calibre cast gave it the gravitas it needed to stand in its own field.
Director Dean Parisot has gone with a sequel that tries to replicate that unique quality, throwing the agents back together for another mission.
The most notable change is that Frank (Bruce Willis) and Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) are an old married couple, bickering about their protective/reclusive way of life.
Sarah wants more adventure; Frank thinks it's too dangerous.
As to be expected in the life of a former CIA agent though, trouble finds them when they are implicated to have knowledge of the location of a bomb created as part of Operation Nightshade.
Like other action sequels (think Taken 2), the story expands to allow international locations and the introduction of what are meant to be more exotic characters.
Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is a Russian agent revealed to be Frank's Kryptonite, while David Thewlis plays a man simply known as The Frog.
Anthony Hopkins is Dr Bailey, the English scientist key to the gang's mission.
While he appears less strung up in his role than Zeta-Jones or Thewlis, the lunacy his character exudes is ultimately representative of the film as a whole.
The insistence of keeping the story a bit loony as a point of difference fails to create anything special this time around.
Frank and Sarah didn't exactly have the beginnings of a conventional couple, but to see them become whiny and mushy towards each other is, for use of a better word, pathetic.
Added nods to the original (comic) material through animated segues clash with the overall style of the film.
RED never had the feel of a comic adaptation, and this story doesn't either; for agents that don't hold superhero powers, they don't need to.
This story continues with plenty of action, blending traditional blow-ups Willis-style with the Asian martial arts skills Han (Byung Hun Lee) unleashes on his opponents.
The script by returning writers Jon and Erich Hoeber fails to create genuine comedy, instead producing a lot of simple stupidity and gags for laughs to a shallow few.
It draws on the previous relationships but lacks inspiration to develop them into anything worthwhile.
Even the music is unsettling, switching from Linkin Park to Eastern spy themes and managing to add nothing but unwanted tension.
Parisot has created a pot of boiling madness, and if anyone escapes with minimal injuries it's John Malkovich as fellow agent Marvin, and Hopkins.
For the rest, it should be straight to the loony bin - but the announcement of a third film means the madness is far from over.
Now screening at Reading Cinemas