This movie is rated R. If John Wick could take that rating and make it into a weapon to stab someone's eyes out, he would. Like I said: R.
DIRECTORS: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch
Okay. I officially don't get it. This movie lauded as one of the coolest, well-made action movies of the past few years. All I can see is a copy of Boondock Saints...and I say that in the worst way possible.
Perhaps it was the hype. I hear John Wick, Chapter Two is great. The shoot-'em-up is a great genre, seen best in the appropriately named Shoot-'Em-Up. But this movie, outside of being phenomenally shot, left me slightly dead inside. It's not abysmal by any means, but it is almost devoid of self-awareness. People might argue with me, but this just felt so dead serious and angry that I couldn't understand where people jumped on board. There were so many opportunities to address that the filmmakers were playing up cliches, yet there wasn't even a hint of mirth. Key and Peele understood the genius of the simplicity of the film better in their parody, Keanu. I mean, the movie starts with the narrative fridging of a dog and plays off of that for nearly two hours. Does it work? Yes, the story has a purpose and there's never a moment when Wick should be questioning his actions. The world that Wick comes from allows for it and that's fine. Even as an audience member, I never really screamed at the screen "This is over a dog!", and I have to hand that to the filmmakers. But that's really the only emotional moment that John Wick experiences. He is meant to be a force of nature and how can you connect with a force of nature?
The bigger problem is that Keanu Reeves doesn't really epitomize "force of nature." He epitomizes, "Let's do cool stuff". I want Batman scaring people in the shadows. I want Bob Hoskins ramming his fist down someone's throat. I want Ernest Hemingway and Ron Swanson's hybrid clone to break out of his whiskey-filled stasis tube and use the glass shards in his knuckles to do some serious damage. Instead, I get monk like Keanu Reeves. That's not Baba Yaga. That's not the Boogeyman. Everything that is attributed to John Wick as a demon killer is through storytelling. On top of that, I don't really see the fear from many of the characters. Okay, Theon Greyjoy seems genuinely scared. But the other characters should be in a constant state of wetting their pants based on what was said about John Wick's success rate. Instead, the bigger bad guys land a punch or two and aren't overjoyed with the fact that they made headway. Even more so, and now we're in SPOILER territory, the big bad gets away scot free, understanding the lucky moment he has had. Then he goes and insults John Wick to his face. This big crime boss sold out his own son for his life and then goes to insult John Wick by murdering his best friend? He wasn't that crazy to do that when he had John Wick captured! Why go out of his way to upset the devil? There is a cool moment at the climax of the movie where Michael Nyqvist's Viggo Tarasov just makes absolutely insane character choices on purpose. It is like he welcomes his own death, but still fights an insane battle with the devil. It is just that the lore about John Wick doesn't really reflect the reactions that the characters have. Shouldn't Viggo just have dropped the ball completely in that fight? He had been completely incompetent up to that point, yet he all the sudden can pull out a knock down, drag out boss fight? I felt that the writers and directors knew that's where the boss fight should be and they were just following the rules of formula.
The one thing I can admire, yet emulate "meh" about is the style of the movie. The movie tries to be something special in terms of the way it is filmed. The problems with your style being "cool" is that it is either all or nothing. I come back to Shoot-'Em-Up. That movie throws everything at the wall and it sticks. John Wick looks very pretty, if not overly dark. The subtitles are a little fun with the font and the highlighted words. But they didn't go far enough. Night Watch did the subtitles better. The Matrix did the desaturation color palate better. So,light thumbs up for trying, but go farther. Be unashamed of the movie that is being made. Instead, this movie is appealing to its already built in fan base.
But this is where I have to admit that I have to be wrong. This movie got a lot of play. This was the sleeper hit of 2014. The director stayed on to do the sequel and that played well. So what am I not noticing? Am I right and some people just like these kinds of movies? If so, fine. But what about all of the other copies of this movie that get panned or ignored? Am I wrong and there is a level of greatness that I can't see? I have been anti-bro movie for a while, so maybe my tastes have changed. But I just couldn't get behind a movie composed almost exclusively of Gun-Fu. The movie did so much of the same thing over and over again that when looking for stills, there was no way of knowing if some of the stills were from this movie or from the sequels. Thank goodness one of the stills came from the church or else I would have been stymied with a million shots of Keanu Reeves firing a gun with two hands. That's not dynamic. I honestly got slightly bored with people getting shot.
There's some cool stuff. I really liked the idea of the hotel mob. That's clever, but that is such an afterthought to the focus of the film. I do think that maybe I've outgrown the traditional action movie. I needed something more and John Wick didn't really deliver on that.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.