John Wick: Chapter 2, 2017

Director: Chad Stahelski

Starring: Keanu Reaves

IMDb

John Wick: Chapter 2 has an interesting title. On one hand, it’s very apt, as it implies a close link to the first film, which is absolutely true. The plot relies heavily on the set up provided by the first movie (not a bad thing at all by the way). On the other, it implies that the story of the first film was incomplete without this follow up. At this point I disagree.

John Wick is one of the tightest, most focussed action films I’ve ever seen. It excelled by getting you on board with the protagonist from the word ‘go’ by giving him a very sympathetic setup and just letting him loose on an extremely satisfying revenge plot. It also delivered on a very interesting world with very interesting characters that you naturally want to know more about. Despite this, John Wick ends in a satisfying enough spot. They could have ended it there.

They didn’t however, and now we have John Wick: Chapter 2. And thank god for that.

Chapter 2 ditches the tight, simple story for a much larger, more intricate one, allowing for some much larger action set pieces, raising the stakes and fleshing out the ever-interesting world a lot more. Depending on your point of view, this can be either a good or bad thing. For my money, I prefer the first movie, mostly for its more driven story and slightly better action (in my opinion), but I can see why someone might prefer the sequel. They’re both pretty great.

I do have major criticism for Chapter 2. The thing that strikes me about the first film is the deep set respect that everyone has for John, an element all too rare in a sea of action films that set their heroes as rebels to the system. John Wick works entirely within his system, he just happens to be the best, and everyone knows it, especially his enemies. The main antagonist of Chapter 2, however, does not. This could create an interesting dynamic to differentiate the two films, but in reality it makes you just want him to die a lot more. Not in the good way either, he’s just a lot less entertaining than the excellent Michael Nyqvist from the first film.

I really liked the rivalry dynamic with Common’s character. It was totally overdone, but it was a lot of fun. I honestly feel a little bad for criticising the film at all, as it was just a lot of fun. Lightning kind of struck twice with this franchise.

Final verdict: John Wick: Chapter 2 is a lot of fun. I personally prefer the first, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here. Biggest criticism: the Australian release date.

Suicide Squad, 2016

Directed by: David Ayer

Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie

IMDb

Suicide Squad was a bad movie. I did enjoy it though.

To be perfectly honest, I’m quite surprised at the depth of it’s shit-ness. The editing and directing were straight up bad, normally in bad super-hero films I don’t notice that kind of thing, but here the flow through the various moments is just rough. The writing too was sub-par; despite good performances by Will Smith and Margot Robbie, their lines often didn’t match their characters. Also, despite there being a little too much exposition, I often didn’t really know what the characters were doing or why.

There were things I liked, however. The universe building was actually pretty good, with cameos from certain DC characters used effectively to give the world a sense of personality and depth. Margot Robbie was a pretty spot-on Harley Quinn, and Will Smith as Deadshot had by far the best action sequences and the strongest personality. There were laughs to be had as well, mostly emanating from the stronger personalities in the film. The soundtrack was pretty fun, BUT amazingly it was very poorly used (another editing problem).

But here’s the big one, the bit everyone wanted to know about: The Joker was straight up bad, I didn’t like him at all. I can’t think of a single characteristic that makes the Joker great that takes form in this rendition. They missed the key point: The Joker isn’t insane, he is in full control, he acts the way he does because he believes “It’s all a joke! Everything anybody ever valued or struggled for… it’s all a monstrous, demented gag”. The Jared Leto rendition is just some insane dude. I really tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, accept the change and judge it on it’s own merit, but unfortunately even then the performance was just unenjoyable.

I have many more things to say about it, but this review has become long enough.

When it comes down to it, if you like comic book movies I’m fairly certain you’ll enjoy Suicide Squad, but I would advise everyone else to not bother.

The Nice Guys, 2016

Directed by: Shane Black

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice

IMDb

The Nice Guys was fantastic. Maybe the best comedy I’ve seen in cinemas. It’s the kind of movie that I just keep remembering jokes from and randomly bursting out in laughter. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe both fantastic performances, and their characters are just brilliantly fleshed out. The story is pretty out there, but it’s appropriate for the tone. The humour is really smart, and almost always comes from the performances. Think Adam Sandler movies, but the complete opposite. I can’t really sing its praises enough, definitely go see it.