Morgan Freeman had it right in the first “RED” installment when his doomed character grinned at fellow retired black-ops agents Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren and said, “We’re getting the band back together. That’s nice.” It was sort of nice, an “Expendables” alternative with some actual wit. No matter that this particular celebrity klatch didn’t really have any shared industry history — they seemed to be having effortless fun. We even got to see Malkovich, as a paranoid nutjob, slumming in a role that, for a change, wasn’t just embarrassing.
But you know how it is with those band reunions. There’s the charge you get from seeing your old faves back together onstage — then they hit it off OK, and decide to do a new album. And another couple of tours. Inevitably it’s all a little less cool. So it goes with “RED 2,” a sequel that has some snappy interplay, typically courtesy of Malkovich, but mostly feels like a cast working to manufacture what came naturally the first time.