Rather than doing a review for John Wick Chapter 2, I’ve decided to discuss my problems with the action scenes of the movie, by comparing it to other movies. Please be aware not only will this article have spoilers for John Wick 2, but for the following movies as well:
Kingsman: The Secret Service
I feel all three of those movies are worth watching so I’d encourage you to watch them before reading this post.
Firstly, I want to address the two things I liked about John Wick 2. I felt that they actually did a better job of setting up an antagonist with Cassian (Common). I still didn’t feel that afraid for Wick during the movie, but Cassian at least seemed like he might be able to defeat him. Ares (Ruby Rose), the other main antagonist, on the other hand, felt like just any other thug, except she was deaf and had a vagina.
I also felt this movie at least didn’t peak halfway through. The action remained more consistent. My problem though is that it got very repetitive. Most of the action scenes involve Keanu Reeves shooting people in the face and then flipping a thug around, pinning him down, killing 2 to 3 more people before finishing his original target off. The only sequences that felt creative were the battle between Cassian and Wick as they run around some parked cars and the sequence when Wick arrives back in New York. Unfortunately, the later sequence felt out of place and way too over the top.
I’ll start with Collateral first.
The first thing I’d like to state is Vincent (Tom Cruise) actually feels like a hitman. He actively thinks of how to not only kill his mark but how to get away. In no part of any of the John Wick movies did he (nor any of the other assassins) make an attempt to hide their identity. This made some sense in the first movie as I think he was trying to tell the crime world to basically fuck off, but considering he actually is tasked with an assassination in the sequel, I believe he could have actually planned his getaway much better.
Now, in the Club Fever shootout, we witness Vincent set up Max (Jamie Foxx) as bait. He knows his employers think that Max is the actual hitman, so he sends Max into the middle of the dance floor. This ruse confuses the FBI, the target’s bodyguards and the cartel hitmen who keep were sent to check on the situation. Although his identity was most likely compromised, he will live and be able to cash his paycheck if he gets away.
I’ll also note there’s not as much action going on in this scene, and to me that’s fine. The setup before an action scene can be just as critical as the action itself. I actually care if Max makes it out alive or not. I know he’s in extreme danger and that he’ll be under attack. Vincent is also attacked and almost becomes unstuck during this scene, which reminds us despite his training, he’s still human.
Another thing I like is that there is a civilian casualty in this scene. I know John Wick 2 is supposed to be more of a fun movie, but I find it kind of hard to believe that shootouts can occur in a crowd of people and that only bad guys get hit (this also happens in the first movie).
Next, Kingsman: The Secret Service.
In John Wick 2, there is a scene where Wick is given a seven-shot Kimber 1911 to go and attack the main bad guy. Of course, he uses these seven bullets very quickly and needs to acquire new weapons from other bad guys. My problem with that sequence is that every baddie just ends up using a pistol.
Why not get creative? In Kingsman, Galahad (Colin Firth) is forced to use all sorts of crazy weapons, starting with his pistol, before using other weapons, some of an improvisational matter. Overall it’s a fun scene that’s executed well.
If I am fair, Galahad doesn’t really get hurt, but Kingsman more of a comedy movie and if you’ve seen the movie you know it doesn’t exactly work out for him in the end.
Finally, The Way of the Gun.
The kidnapping attempt itself is brilliant. What I love about this scene is that it doesn’t go to guns right away, but it’s tense. If someone fires you know things are going to get ugly and that a pregnant woman (or her baby) could die. We also learn a lot about the characters. We realize that the bodyguards Obecks (Nicky Katt) and Jeffers (Taye Diggs) aren’t protecting Robin (Juliette Lewis) but the baby. That’s the only thing that’s worth money. She can pop out another one if it comes to it.
We also witness that both Mr. Parker (Ryan Philippe) and Mr. Longbaugh (Benicio Del Toro) aren’t just dumb thugs. They have some tactical knowledge as demonstrated by their bounding movement (The Moving/Move sequence). Finally, we learn how desperate Robin is to escape her bodyguards (even if it was a pretty stupid thing to do).
Then there is the brilliant car chase that follows also shows us that Mr. Longbaugh and Mr. Parker are crafty predators. They don’t speed through the streets, but rather drive calmly and wait for the right time to ambush their pursuers. Eventually, when they defeat Obecks and Jeffers, they decide to strategically leave them, to delay the authorities.
Both sequences are thrilling, but at the same time, they don’t rely on a body count. One of the bigger problems with John Wick 2 is that just about every action sequence in it probably had a body count that got close to triple digits. Sometimes less can be more.
I also think this sequence does a good job of illustrating each character. The bodyguards are mercenaries who only care about money. Mr. Longbaugh is a cunning predator who’s leading Mr. Parker along for the ride, and Robin is a distressed woman who longs to escape her predicament.
Overall I was honestly a bit disappointed with John Wick 2. I felt there was plenty of room for improvement from the first and it failed to do so. I know a lot of people probably just want it to be a dumb action movie but to be honest, for me it kind of failed on that level too.