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Entries in byung-hun lee (2)

Friday
Jul192013

Red 2

It was a great year for movies in 2010. Pixar put out their most mature film to date with “Toy Story 3,” David Fincher blew us all away with his masterful Facebook movie, “The Social Network,” we saw a completely different side of Natalie Portman in the haunting “Black Swan” and Colin Firth gave an unforgettable performance in the Best Picture Academy Award winner, “The King’s Speech.” But the year was also full of perplexing oddities, movies that gained a surprisingly large fanbase and a warm critical reception when they hardly did anything special. “Red” was one of those movies. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t particularly interesting either and, despite some minor improvements, “Red 2” is just more of the same, for better or worse.

Much like the previous film, ex-black ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is on the run, deemed a domestic terrorist by his own government, and, through some complicated plot structuring, on the hunt for a dangerous portable nuclear device that was previously thought to be nothing more than a Cold War myth. To help him, he enlists the help of his old buddies, Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren). It gets more complicated, however, when he learns that the world’s greatest contract killer, Han (Byung-hun Lee), is out to kill him, all while a former fling and Russian counter intelligence agent, Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones), attempts to seduce him to fulfill her own ulterior motives, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker).

The best part of the original “Red” was not the action scenes, but rather the banter between the group. Watching these veteran actors play off each other is an absolute joy, but it was bogged down in the first film by what can only be described as pseudo-hipster dialogue, a lame attempt to spice the film up and cater to a younger demographic, despite the older cast. Thankfully, much of that is gone here while the witty banter remains. Malkovich is at the top of his game, eliciting laughs with the slightest of facial cues and many of the one-liners are undeniably amusing.

But the film never goes past that amusing state. “Red 2” is humorous, but it’s never really funny. It’s clever, but it’s never really smart. It’s lighthearted, but it merely teeters on the edge of being fun. The movie plays out almost like something that’s surprised it exists in the first place, rarely venturing beyond what barely worked in its predecessor and rehashing the same pleasant, yet unimpressive, style and tone. Where the film steps it up is in its get-to-the-point dialogue that does away with needless filler (like in the first movie when Morgan Freeman revealed he had stage four level cancer and then completely drops it, not unlike the breast cancer line in Tommy Wiseau’s infamous “The Room”) and in its varied action.

The first film was boring. It moved slowly and its action took place in some of the most clichéd places imaginable. Locations like a shipping container yard and parking garages were its highlights, giving it a feeling of a generic shoot ‘em up video game. Due to the nature of its story, “Red 2” jet sets all around the world (sometimes to an annoying and confusing degree), but it gives way to a number of various locales that were all but missing in the original. There’s a great hand-to-hand battle in an airport hangar, a suspenseful infiltration of the Moscow Kremlin and a terrific finale that takes place in the Iranian embassy in London. While much of the action is far-fetched (and if you want to see aging movie stars wielding giant weapons, you’re better off checking out the far more entertaining “Expendables” movies), it’s this diversity that keeps it interesting.

Although “Red” wasn’t an unpleasant movie, it was too bland and generic to stand out. “Red 2” has many of the same problems, but it fixes enough of them to make it the easy choice among the two. Certain scenes are so good, particularly the interesting new take on interrogations—turns out there’s no need for torture; just get the victim all hot and bothered by a beautiful woman and he’ll tell you everything—that they’re almost worth the price of admission alone. Luckily, there’s a bit more here than just random scenes that work. You still won’t care about what ultimately happens, but you’ll have a pleasant enough trip getting there.

Red 2 receives 3/5

Thursday
Mar282013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

One mustn’t expect much when sitting down to watch “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” It’s based on a silly Hasbro toy meant to portray the fighting spirit of the American soldier and as such, one should expect nothing more than mindless entertainment. In this case, the film nailed the “mindless” part, but forgot about the “entertainment.” Having seen the original movie only once, it’s hard to say which is worse—they appear to be equal in terms of quality—but this is action at its most basic. Only junkies of the genre will find anything to enjoy and even they might be put off by the lousy script, horrible puns and desperation seeping through this thing. “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is an early contender for one of the worst movies of the year.

According to franchise lore, the Joes are an elite covert special mission unit operating under the supervision of the US military. They’re given all the difficult jobs, the ones where a lesser group of soldiers wouldn’t make it back alive. However, they’re about to be set up and most of them are about to be put into retirement for good. After a successful mission with no casualties, an air attack comes by and wipes them out. Only a few survive, including Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), the new leader of the Joes. Along with his remaining comrades, he sets out to discover who double-crossed them and bring them to justice.

Of course, other prominent franchise characters play their roles as well, like Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey), though keeping track of them all is a daunting task for the uninitiated. So many characters appear, some of whom look similar enough to be indistinguishable from each other, that it’s sometimes difficult to tell who is on whose side. To blame this entirely on the existing franchise would be unfair, however, as it’s primarily the screenplay that does such a poor job of establishing them. “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” has the most hackneyed screenplay of the year so far and it’s filled with so much expositional dialogue that you’d be playing the odds if you bet that the rest of this year’s movies combined wouldn’t equal its amount.

It’s insulting, quite frankly. Characters, motivations, schemes, places, all are explained almost entirely through exposition, as if the audience is too dumb to figure it out for themselves. When so much of that exposition is interrupted with some of the lamest jokes this side of “Jack and Jill,” it becomes difficult to handle. One attractive woman introduces herself as a reporter for Fox News. “That must be why you look so fair and balanced,” the man says in reply, as if that somehow makes sense. Early on, one Joe tells another to prepare for extraction and he replies, “Extraction? What are we, teeth?” The villain even refers to himself as the “quicker blower-upper,” a clear play on words of Bounty’s paper towels.

These moments will make you roll your eyes so far into the back of your head, you may put yourself into a catatonic state. The only thing that could have saved “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” from total irrelevance is its action scenes, but they’re hardly exciting. Aside from one impressive, though CGI-fueled, battle on the side of a mountain, what is presented here is generic of dozens of other shoot ‘em ups that have come before. To make matters worse, the action scenes are too short and too few while the narrative sections are unnecessarily stretched out, despite their simplistic nature. One example of this simplicity comes fairly early on (so this can hardly be considered a spoiler) when the Joes figure out that the President isn’t actually the President. “Last week, he said soda. Now, he says pop!” one Joe proclaims. “When he crossed his fingers together, the right thumb rest on top, but now it’s the left!” she follows. If this is all the deduction it takes to uncover a terrorist plot, we would all be super soldier sleuths.

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is awful, yet it doesn’t even realize it. It doesn’t play off its own obvious deficiencies with a playful wink and nod. To the contrary, it actually thinks it’s good, but its dramatic moments are flat, its humor is desperately unfunny and its action scenes are unimaginative. Let’s hope next time someone double crosses the Joes, he takes them all out so we won’t have to sit through another one of their movies.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation receives 0.5/5