I am a full-time tactics and firearms instructor, and as such, I am constantly asked by friends and family what I thought of the latest and greatest new action movie. I have to say that the first of the John Wick movies caught me off guard.
You see, I am the guy who ruins action movies for my friends and family. I’m not trying to be a tactics snob or a kill-joy by any means, but I have a sneaking suspicion that friends and family secretly want you to crush their favorite movies so they can get ‘the inside scoop’ on what is real and what is just Hollywood fluff.
I was caught off guard by the first movie because I immediately noticed the wonderful weapon manipulation skills, shooting philosophy, use of angles, employment of simple room clearing tactics, and realistic martial arts. I don’t actively watch shoot ’em up movies to find flaws. Just like you, I want to zone out and be entertained for awhile, however even little flaws in movement and weapon employment jump out and scream at me.
I appreciated John Wick because I got to really enjoy the movie and get lost in it for awhile without having to be rudely awakened by an actor and film crew who clearly had not done their homework. Now before I exalt this movie too high, I feel the need to balance my praise with a hard critique on the story line.
John Wick murders well over 100 people because someone stole his car and killed his new puppy. Wow. Really? I get there was sentimental value attached to the dog, and hey, it was a REALLY NICE CAR….but come on man, wasn’t it insured?
I don’t think this should really be a hit on the movie I suppose, but it was something I just couldn’t get over. I guess I’m the one to blame. Should I have expected a professional assassin to have a reasonable and balanced sense of morality?
I was lulled to sleep though by great Hollywood character development, as I became attached to Keanu Reeves’ character. I began to think this John Wick was really just a nice guy who got dealt a bad hand, instead of the sociopath he most certainly is. In real life, this guy needs to go to prison forever, but in the movie…it was a bit fun to root for the bad guy.
In John Wick 2, I saw more of the same great gun handling skills I saw in the first movie and it looked like Keanu Reeves even improved. Way to go Keanu, you have my respect for your hard work, and submission to professional advice from good dudes like Aaron Cohen and Taran of Taran Tactical.
I was also surprised by how much Reeves had upped his martial arts game as I immediately noticed my beloved art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu popping up everywhere. As far as action movies goes, this was non-stop fun. Now before you load up the kids to go see a fun family movie, because of the gratuitous violence from start to finish, this one is probably just a good one for a daddy’s night out. This sequel was a win, but it had much more gore than even the first one. I especially enjoyed a couple epic knife fighting scenes and a classic kill everyone with a pencil bit (or not so classic).
Now time for the more distracting and unbelievable parts of John Wick 2. First off, this guy needs a plan.
For example, when John Wick wants to get his car back, he just walks into a bustling warehouse to steal it back. Sure its cool to see the non-stop gladiatorial death matches that ensue, but come on man, can’t you find a smarter way!? How about wear a surprise since everyone in the world seems to recognize you?
As a gunfighter, I’ll give him two thumbs up, but as a tactician….. epic fail. Can’t we make a plan that doesn’t involve walking straight into the eye of the storm and getting beat to a pulp in the process?
My mind immediately went to work as to ‘how would I take a person out’, and nearly anything could have been a better idea than clenching fists and walking through the valley of death. Though each move performed was realistic (in terms of it is possible for someone to pull off), the idea someone could be so lucky, so often, take such a savage beating, be vulnerable from so many angles, and bad guys encircling you conveniently come in only ones and sometimes twos… left me with a puzzled look on my face. I often thought, “yeah, that was awesome…. and so impossible.”
There I go being a kill-joy. Sure, John Wick just waiting on a rooftop with a sniper rifle for his target to come in to the crosshairs would not have been as exciting and it would have made for a very short and boring movie. The point was to make a fun and flashy movie with realism mixed in, and as this was the goal, John Wick 2 certainly accomplished that mission.
Another element that had me scratching my head was the fact the Rome seems to have a million assassins who are all conveniently finding John Wick everywhere. The ‘boogeyman’ as he is called, seems to be very easy to find. (keep reading below…)
Other elements I loved… how about the Laurence Fishburne cameo!? That’s right, Morpheus and Neo stepped right out of The Matrix for a sentimental reunion that was downright fun. Way to go Hollywood.
I also enjoyed the dry humor and comic relief that would spontaneously interrupt the knock-down-drag-out brawls. The stark contrast of tempo had me feeling like I had been shivering in cold water only to suddenly land in a hot-tub. What fun.
I highly recommend the movie to those who don’t mind the elements this movie gained it’s ‘R’ rating for. Hopefully, the movie may even inspire some folks to get some good training (and before you ask, no, I don’t train assassins – just good guys).