Back with a bang.
I really like John Wick. It is not a hard movie to re-watch. We are in an age of action movies that either try to be too complex or that just take themselves too seriously. John Wick splits through the genre fatigue even though it appears to offer more of the same. It simplicity succeeds and its action works very well with little narrative justification.
John’s key motivation in the first movie is his dog getting killed, and that’s all the explanation the movie needs to justify itself. This is why the John Wick approach works when other seemingly similar action movies don’t. This simple yet sentimental context is all the movie needs. It provides enough motivation even when John eventually reverts back to killing just for the sake of killing. We learn this is his true self, like many conflicted heroes, regardless of what set him off in the first place.
The movie establishes the history of a sophisticated, hi-tech yet archaic underground society of professional killers is through the limited dialogue. The mythos of the franchise’s universe and it’s characters is so much more intriguing because the movie keeps it simple. The most effective moment of the first film is villain’s reaction to learning who his ilk have antagonized. He has no response, he just realizes they are doomed. It’s a great moment of subversion when establishing hero versus villain dynamics. Moments like these do far more in establishing who characters are than any exposition really can.
John Wick: Chapter 2 stays at the level that the first one escalated to in no time at all. The greater variety amongst its set pieces and exquisite backdrops showcase a broader spectacle of the precise and forceful action. Chapter 2 makes the first one feeler tighter, more confined. It seems to know just when to switch from one form of chaos to another with an artistry that other movies don’t take the time to choreograph. It’s self-referential without feeling recycled.
The action of the franchise is so tactical. Each bullet fired and kick delivered is so specific that the film takes on a ballet-like quality. It even uses the humor of interruptions just as effectively as the action it abruptly stops. This keeps the pacing fresh with a staccato-like fashion. It’s the timing that sets John Wick apart. It knows what to do and when, and, most importantly, for how long.
While I am wary of a third installment, this franchise would hold far more promise than other series that don’t seem to know when to stop. However, it does already have the design to make for one hell of a video game.