"I didn't see that coming!" the uber-villain in "Red 2" mutters just before he/she meets his/her "surprise" demise.
Except that most viewers who watch comic action movies did see that coming, just as film fans could probably see this sequel coming from the original 2010 hit "Red" once it amassed $200 million in global ticket sales.
"Red 2"★ ★
Starring: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Mary-Louise Parker, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Other: A Summit Entertainment release. Rated PG-13 for violence, language, drug use. 116 minutes
The first "Red," directed by Robert Schwentke, came on as a pleasantly witty, irreverent and blackly comic spy thriller seemingly targeted to the AARP demographic, about retired government assassins forced back into the job market to save their lives.
Dean Parisot takes over "Red 2" and turns it into a bloated, exploded adventure that wants to be bigger, noisier and cartoonier than the original. In short, to bump it up into something that the original box office smash was not.
The major subplot continues to be the still-fragile relationship between retired agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and his much younger, deluded girlfriend Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker). He wants to protect her from the world. She wants to step out into it -- armed.
While they shop at a Costco store (product placement alert!), nutty retired spy Marvin Boggs (former Chicago Steppenwolf actor John Malkovich) approaches them with a warning, "They are coming."
One car bomb in the Costco parking lot later, Frank and Sarah attend Marvin's funeral. In an apparent homage to Cary Grant's classic "Charade," Frank doesn't believe Marvin is really dead until he sticks a pin into the body a couple of times. ("Charade" did it much better.)
Government operatives led by coldblooded killer Jack Horton (an extremely lethal Neal McDonough) abduct Frank and interrogate him about "Nightshade,"a doomsday device lost during the Cold War and designed by British scientist Edward Bailey, missing for decades.
Frank escapes, thanks to government-trained agents being pathetic marksmen, and becomes the target of two hired assassins.
The first is Han (martial arts action star Byung-hun Lee), called "the best contract killer in the world," although a scene in which Han fires thousands of bullets at Frank and misses would contradict that claim.
The second is his old British pal Victoria (Helen Mirren), a retiree polite enough to call Frank to inform him of her contractual obligations.
The smoldering Catherine Zeta-Jones pops in, and almost out, as Katja, a sexy Russian agent who wants to help her ex-lover Frank. ("She's Frank's Kryptonite!" Marvin mumbles, much to Sarah's chagrin.)
Brian Cox plays Ivan, an unnecessary stereotypical romantic Russian alcoholic given to burbling sweet nothings in Katja's ears.
When the good guys finally track down Nightshade's missing inventor in a Soviet prison, he turns out to be a cheerfully addled Anthony Hopkins, who has no idea that so much time has passed.
(Screenwriters Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber never take advantage of the fact that "Red 2" marks the first movie starring the two actors who played serial killer Hannibal Lecter: Cox in "Manhunter" and Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs" and its sequels.)
None of the characters in "Red 2" really connect. They spout their dialogue with professional efficiency and roll on to the next staged action set piece, leaving the constantly mugging Malkovich to make Marvin the movie's funniest comic resource.
Yes, Frank was right. Marvin didn't really die in the Costco explosion.
But then, you saw that coming, didn't you?