We ventured out to see *John Wick, Chapter 2* this past Thursday, a testosterone-fueled affair where all but two of the principals are males. The first is the target of a hit, and she demonstrates her defiance by stripping naked for the protagonist and jumping in a tub. The second is a mute who is pretty masculine in her own right, with cropped hair and a conventional men’s suit. She’s also tatted up. What is going on with her is not exactly clear. The love interest is actually just a picture of his former love interest (who must have died in the previous movie?) and probably doesn’t count as a character, unless you need at least three females in the film to get it green-lighted in Hollywood these days.
Not that I was expecting it, but not a real feminine touch here.
The real love interest, it turns out, is John Wick’s dog, who behaves a lot like a woman typically behaves in these affairs — follows the hero around and focuses its attention solely on the hero (in this case literally sitting at attention until it is told it can do otherwise). The dog doesn’t have a name, either, which is both mildly comedic and instructive.
What the movie lacks in women, it makes up for in action, and in spots the action is brilliant. The initial chase scene contains several moments where L&D (and our special guest, A) jumped out of our seats or covered our faces or shouted “OH!” and generally reacted in ways men react when they see another man take a direct and unexpected shot to the nutuals. This is John Wick at its best. The film also featured dozens of shots where the victim’s brain and skull spatter out the back of the head. For example, Mr. Wick might angle the gun below a victim and the bullet would come out the back of the victim’s head, along with residual brain and skull, sort of like seeing the silhouette of water out of a fountain.
In fairness, most of the victims had it coming.
Speaking of fountains, I also liked the scene where hero and one of the villains were shooting at each other blindly through the fountain. Why they were being so coy in the station a minute earlier and then start blindly shooting at each other out in the open is an unanswerable question, and if you see the film, you will not be able to answer it, either.
This is pure, live-action comic book. Which, I gather, is pure live-action first-person gaming these days. If you like watching people play first-person shooter video games, this is the movie for you.
But for the rest of us, even low expectations going in wasn’t enough to save it. This movie has no heart. The story isn’t interesting. The characters aren’t interesting. The great Ian McShane gets to play a priggish bore, like Teddy Bass running his own retirement community or a modern-day Al Swearengen who doesn’t allow swearing within his club. The only grasp at sex appeal in the entire affair is immediately supplanted with noirish bloodletting.
And even the villain isn’t that villainous, at least not in a way that inspires true audience animus or awe. Aren’t great action movies as much about the villain as the hero? Darth Vader, the Joker, Hans Gruber, Sam Gerard. That’s probably as much of a deal breaker as anything.
Heart and a good Villain. We will return to these themes in future posts, I’m certain.
As for the verdict: For me, the movie was saved by low expectations and I got my $5 worth.
It passes the time.
And then, like it never happened, I go home and forget all about it.
Unfortunately, my colleague was expecting more and was sorely, sorely disappointed. So, plan accordingly.