Girls on Film: Helen Mirren could be one of Hollywood's great action heroes

Forget about Bruce Willis. Red 2 shows the value of letting a strong actress loose in an action franchise

Helen Mirren
(Image credit: Frank Masi, SMPSP)

The third Bruce Willis action sequel of 2013 hits theaters today. After throwing a one-two punch this spring with A Good Day to Die Hard and G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Willis is back to smirk his way through Red 2, a sequel that sees the "Retired, Extremely Dangerous" C.I.A. retiree team up with his old spec-ops cronies to face the delayed aftermath of their old operations. Where the original Red earned modest acclaim, the second is landing with a dull thud; Red 2 currently sits at a middling 36 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with critics like Justin Lowe at The Hollywood Reporter offering faint praise like "not that it isn't entertaining, but the film's premise is certainly well past its 'use by' date."

The same could be said for Willis himself, whose action apathy has become increasingly apparent in recent years. In a 2002 interview with The Mirror, Willis said, "I'm bored doing movies where I run down the street with a gun." After a decade, critics and fans are starting to agree. He's "phoning it in," evolving from a die-hard moonlighter to a "bored, cynical, old, almost has-been actor who wouldn't quit." "In his '90s superstar heyday, Bruce Willis regularly spun screenwriters' drivel into catchphrase gold," writes Todd Gilchrist at The Wrap. “But decades later in a lackadaisical sequel no one asked for except perhaps his creditors, he seems unmotivated to smile at all, much less offer a series of emotions that constitute a believable or compelling performance."

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Monika Bartyzel

Monika Bartyzel is a freelance writer and creator of Girls on Film, a weekly look at femme-centric film news and concerns, now appearing at Her work has been published on sites including The Atlantic,, Moviefone, Collider, and the now-defunct Cinematical, where she was a lead writer and assignment editor.