Saturday, July 29, 2017

Movie Reviews: John Wick Chapter 2

John Wick Chapter 2
directed by Chad Stahelski

Rinse, Wash, Repeat. 

There is a line in Tolkien's Silmarillion in which Feanor, among the greatest and most tragic of the elven heroes, insults Melkor, the Big Bad (Satan analogue) of Tolkien's Universe. Then hate overcame Feanor's fear, and he cursed Melkor and bade him be gone, saying "Get thee gone from my gate, thou jail-crow of Mandos!" And he shut the doors of his house in the face of the mightiest of all the dwellers in Arda. Insulting the Devil to his face isn't really a wise thing to do. Feanor finds this out the hard way though since he is a total jerk he didn't see the error of his ways even when he died. The point is that when you insult or attack people whose capacities and capabilities you do not know, you might run across people you really should have left the f*** alone. That truism made the first John Wick movie an entertaining spectacle. The title character, a feared and skilled retired assassin, was processing his wife's death when an idiot made the mistake of stealing his car and killing his dog. The running joke throughout the film was that everyone was incredulous that anyone would willingly get on John Wick's bad side. As one criminal said we aren't scared of him because he's the Boogeyman. We're scared of him because that's who we send to kill the Boogeyman! 

We saw in great detail why upsetting John Wick was a very bad idea. Reeves is a minimalist actor, so the role of a quiet man struggling with grief and anger in equal measure was almost tailor made for him. 

There were just enough flashbacks of happier times with his wife in order to make the viewer cheer for a man who is, after all, a paid murderer. In the second film there's little emotional connection with anyone. This film looks and feels like a video game. There are some wonderfully shot set pieces, including a silent battle in an art museum and what seems like a homage to the mirror fight in Enter the Dragon but all in all I was kind of bored by the action and the story line. 

I did like the premise of a secret society of elite assassins who combine modern and deliberately anachronistic technologies, have only a few rules, and are polite to each other even while they're trying to murder each other. There might be more of a story there but then again that secret assassin premise has been done to death as well. 

Unlike say The Raid movies, there weren't many times when I felt the hero was in real danger. The action generally lacked the sweaty bloody visceral impact which was seen and felt in The Raid series. In John Wick Chapter 2 there wasn't really any single person that could match the hero in menace. Okay maybe there was one. You'd have to decide that.  I will say that you may come away from the film with a renewed appreciation for krav maga and jujitsu. So there's that.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is finally retrieving his stolen car. That he ends up almost destroying it in the process isn't the point. The point is that muyerfuyers need to learn that they don't steal anything that belongs to John Wick. After doing that and committing all sorts of mayhem and murder, John is approached by one Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scarmarcio). In order to finish the job which allowed him to retire, John received help from Santino. So John owes Santino. This is symbolized by a marker with John's blood, which Santino has prudently kept. Having noticed that John is busy slaughtering half of the Eastern Seaboard underworld to indicate his displeasure over his dead dog and stolen car, Santino gets it in his head that John must not be retired after all. Therefore, he has a job for John. 
Santino, a ranking Camorra member, wants John to murder Santino's sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini), the vampish and ruthless head of a Camorra Family and holder of a seat on the international crime council. John says he's retired. But Santino is not a man to take no for an answer. John appeals to his friend and boss Winston (Ian McShane) but as Winston explains all markers must be honored. Period. No exceptions. In short time John is back in the game matching wits and trading shots with fellow assassin and Gianna's top bodyguard Cassian (Common),  The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), a man who may help or harm John depending on his mood,  Ares (Ruby Rose), a mute assassin who communicates via sign language, and of course an army of goons commanded by the suave Santino. Charon (Lance Reddick) is the polite and exacting concierge of the Continental Hotel. The hotel is a place where many of the assassins relax, trade and receive assignments, payments and war stories, and in which violence is strictly forbidden. John Leguizamo returns as your friendly neighborhood chop shop owner. This movie was occasionally fun but I didn't get the same thrill as I got from the original. As always YMMV. This film did quite well financially. It's visually quite intoxicating with lots of blues and reds that pulsate and leap off the screen.
blog comments powered by Disqus