Collide and John Wick Chapter 2 — Essay

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I am not the intended audience for these films. In fact, they demand a suspension of disbelief that only a child could allow. “Collide” could easily be renamed “Implausible”. Let’s consider human consciousness, it resides in the brain, right? But you can’t quite put your finger on it. It doesn’t reside in one exact part of your brain. You can’t take human consciousness, put in a bottle and then display it in a museum. In fact, human consciousness, like PTSD resides in every part of your body. My friend, the filmmaker Wynn Padula, just released his latest documentary, Resurface, about combat vets who take on surfing as a way to deal with PTSD. It’s an official selection at the Tribeca Film Festival next month. Wynn did a Zoom session with the documentary film class I teach and told us about his experiences with the soldiers and how PTSD affects them. No one in Collide or John Wick ever had PTSD. They just get a few scratches, dust themselves off, elude a thousand rounds and keep going.

When Collide gathers together bona-fide actors like Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley to rehash successful performances, when it takes us on high speed chases on the autobahn and includes sexy, sexy, ladies. Well, isn’t that a recipe for success? Or is it, as it turns out, just a recipe for a Frankenstein monster of film. One with no consciousness and no heart. If it was that easy to stick together a hit film, then everyone would do it.

Now if you are going to be over the top with violence, totally blurring the line between first person shooter video game and movie — in a sense creating a first person shooter game where the player can eat pop-corn and never be killed or even wait to spawn again — you should at least have a sense of humor and some humanity about it. When John Wick enters the Continent Hotel after one of his many bloody firefights, he doesn’t even ask the concierge, who is in charge of his beloved dog, how the old fella is. Those seemingly benign moments are perfect opportunities to inject a little comedy, humanity and even sympathy for a protagonist whose exploits make them more and more robotic. And besides, the audience wants to know how the dog is doing! Don’t forget about us. We paid to watch this. Even if it was only $5 and with free pop-corn in the reclining La-Z-Boy red leather loungers of the Valley Grand Marcus Cinema. We. Still. Care.

I watched another film last night. It was at the Wildwood Film Festival here in Appleton, Wisco. The film is called Halfway and stars Quinton Aaron, who you might recall from “The Blind Side”, as an ex-con who ends up living with his extended family on a farm in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin.  Aaron’s portrayal of life on the outside was truly stirring and there were times in the drama when I got chills. Films like “Halfway” are the ones we should be watching and celebrating as a society. If I want to play a video game, or in the case of these films, watch someone else play a video game for me, I will go to gammer convention or head over to D’s house. I know he gets his video game on in the basement.

Finally, I would like to mention that I love action movies and even enjoy violent ones. “Shooter”, “Deadpool” (one of our combined top movies of last year) and even last years’ over the top Hardcore Henry were all films I really got into. And also, this is not a knock on Keanu Reeves who I worked with on a documentary called “Sunset Strip”. He was the nicest, coolest person, sincerely. He will probably start a foundation to help Hawaiian sea life, if he hasn’t already.   It’s just that if a film has no heart, I can’t get into it and it becomes a meaningless series of gore and cinematic mush. I am not the intended audience for these films.

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