BY ROGER THOMAS
I had to go back to my review of the original 2014 film, “John Wick”, so I could remind myself what I thought of the first violent chapter of a story about a man who is a killing machine. My opening statement about the first film was this: “Like the character whose name appears in the title, John Wick, the film, is very good at what it does.” I meant that two and half years ago, but as I ponder the new film, I am much less satisfied.
I guess a little bit of John Wick goes a long way. Wick, played again by Keanu Reeves, is still very successful at killing others; I just did not find it as interesting as it was in the preceding tale.
This second chapter picks up basically right were the first film ended. Wick goes to retrieve his car. In the process he starts a battle with another ruthless individual who destroys something that belongs to Wick. Thus starting a new feud.
From that point the rest of the film is about revenge. Actually the entire film is about that subject.
The film is not completely flawed. There are many moments that are amusing. Likewise there are certain events or actions which caused others in the theatre to cheer enthusiastically. I never did, but I understand their enthusiasm. In fact one row behind me seemed to be filled with Wick’s fan club. They definitely liked the film more than me.
I also liked the dog very much, He is my favorite character. Another welcome character was played by Ian McShane; I have been a fan of his since HBO’s “Deadwood.”
A lot of the settings, especially in Europe are beautiful. I liked John’s home too. There were bars and lobbies, subways and museums all of which hosted pivotal scenes. Overall, the production design is the best element in the entire film.
There are also a few creative ways to take a life; but most of the killings are bullets in the head. This becomes tiresome. I found myself thinking, “How many shots does one have to fire before someone connected to law enforcement comes to the scene of the violence?” In the world of John Wick, law enforcement is not coming and not getting involved. A friend of mine offered a reason for the lack of police involvement, but I did not embrace his reasoning.
Another quote from my review of the first John Wick film states this fact, “Ultimately, John Wick, the character, does not exist in the real world. In the film he has more in common with a superhero than an actual assassin in any reality. There are too many fights, too many chances for him to have fallen, not to mention the bruises and wounds he entails.” I kept thinking that over and over again. There is a mention of a special defense for his body when he meets with his tailor, but that only raises the question, “Why does someone not just shoot him in the head?”
Once again, I am not the target audience for this film. At my age I would rather see James Bond kill with less blood and a much smaller body count. In fact, during “John Wick: Chapter 2” I was thinking, “When is the next Bond film arriving in theaters?” When one is watching one film and thinking about another, that is not usually a positive sign.
In the closing paragraph of my review of the first “John Wick” film I wrote these words: “There is little depth to the story. No lines of dialogue that are quotable or inspired… But while I watched the film, I am pretty sure I was smiling.”
This time I hardly smiled at all.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.