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‘Red 2’ even more fun than the original

Helen Mirren back as MI6 sharpshooter Victoriis one seasoned actors making most hilarious one-liners “Red 2.”

Helen Mirren, back as MI6 sharpshooter Victoria, is one of the seasoned actors making the most of hilarious one-liners in “Red 2.”

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‘RED 2’ ★★★½

Frank Bruce Willis

Marvin John Malkovich

Sarah Mary-Louise Parker

Victoria Helen Mirren

Bailey Anthony Hopkins

Han Byung Hun Lee

Summit Entertainment presents a film directed by Dean Parisot. Written by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber. Running time: 107 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for pervasive action and violence including frenetic gunplay, and for some language and drug material). Opening Friday at local theaters.

Updated: August 20, 2013 6:11AM

After the success of the sleeper hit “Red” in 2010, it’s no surprise a sequel was fast-tracked to capitalize on the audience’s delight in watching Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis and John Malkovich as retired international spies and assassins — pulled back into the fray of global espionage and intrigue.

Happily, unlike so many sequels, prequels and the like, “Red 2” not only delivers the action, laughs and thrills of the original — in many ways it surpasses it.

Plus, the addition of Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones to this already solid A-List cast ups the ante and helps make “Red 2” one helluva fun escapist adventure for summer.

A big part of the charm is the not-so-subtle reminder — in virtually every scene — that while most of the principal actors are portraying baby boomer-era characters (matching their real ages), experience often trumps youth, even when it comes to skills requiring brute strength.

As was the case in the first movie, the sibling writing team of Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber has infused the script for “Red 2” with terrific humor — beautifully tailored to the actors. The fast-paced dialogue is chock-full of hilarious zingers and one-liners that clearly were fun for Mirren, Willis, Hopkins and Zeta-Jones to deliver with aplomb.

In this return to the world of “Retired Extremely Dangerous” multi-skilled agents, ex-CIA black-op Frank Moses (Willis) has settled into a reliably safe (so he thinks) life with Sarah Ross (again played by Mary-Louise Parker). The cozy duo is seen shopping at a Costco in the opening scene.

While Frank is perfectly happy to leave the globe-trotting world of bashing bad guys behind him, Sarah isn’t so sure — thinking their love life is a bit less exciting because Frank hasn’t “killed anyone in months.”

Sarah now wants to become an active participant in the world of secret agents, especially desirous of joining the team — so to speak — of Frank, his old partner Marvin Boggs (Malkovich) and British MI6 sharpshooter Victoria (Mirren).

All of this comes to a head when Marvin shows up to inform Frank of a mysterious plot to eliminate the two of them, by their own CIA at that — due to a super-secret project called “Nightshade.” Soon the team is reassembled and off on an action-packed romp taking them to Paris and Moscow.

Malkovich’s Marvin is given even more opportunities to provide entertaining moments in this second film. It’s all because of Malkovich’s way with dialogue, often delivered with deadpan precision.

Quickly we learn that “Nightshade” is the code name for a frightening and dangerous weapon of mass destruction — a key plot point that will underlie the addition of Anthony Hopkins as a brilliant nuclear scientist and top Korean actor Byung Hun Lee as a ruthless killer with a personal, long-held grudge against Frank Moses.

Suffice it to say, “Red 2” has some nice little twists, turns and surprises, which I won’t reveal here. Just know it all comes to a very satisfying conclusion that makes perfect sense in the end.

As with the rest of this superb cast, Hopkins is spot-on as troubled uber-genius Bailey, a man who harbors his own secrets and long-simmering agenda.

Zeta-Jones adds a glamorous and sexy touch, playing the beautiful Russian double-agent Katja. That character’s backstory, involving a former romantic liaison with Frank, naturally irritates Sarah and ignites a funny jealousy that also works in nicely with the plot.

As is often the case with this genre of film, there are mind-blowing chase scenes and action sequences that require audiences to truly suspend belief in the science of physics — but that’s OK! As long as they are executed with gleeful exuberance (and great special effects) — which they are here — we are happy to accept the on-screen action, filled with seemingly indestructible cars and deadly shootings that never wound the protagonists.

At the end, we are left with a strong hope that Mirren, Willis and Malkovich — with Parker now on board as a true “Red” team member — will again reunite and continue this franchise at least for one more time.

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