Unaccountably the trailers left out the perfect John Wick line for a trailer “You wanted me back. I’m back.” It was right there in the script, and they left it there as an Easter egg for people like me marvelling at missed opportunities. Thanks, film-makers. You shouldn’t have.
The original John Wick was a weird work of art which I’ve never really wanted to watch again. The fights are amazing, and yet somehow I knew that they would be wearisome a second time around. The milieu was intriguing, but it had made its point so solidly that there was nothing left for me to unpick on another watch. It was just one of those movies which impressed me more than I expected simple violent popcorn to impress me, and which I knew I’d probably like a lot more if I just kept the cluttered jumbled memories you take out of the cinema.
Still, just because I didn’t need to watch the first one again didn’t mean that I didn’t want to see what a second helping might look like. The trailers were impressive and it did seem like a good mix of ultra-violence and bonkers parallel economy. The trailers are, in fact, incredibly misleading. Not about what they’re selling - the movie is exactly the mix you see in the trailer - but about the plot. Every line you hear from Winston (Ian McShane) in the trailer is massively out of context; when you get to the movie, half the time he isn’t even talking to the person the trailer leads you to think he’s talking to. I suppose it’s one way to avoid spoilers.
So how does it all hold up? Well, there’s gunfights. And fistfights. And pencil-fights. John Wick survives more lethal injuries than I can remember anyone surviving in a movie. And he kills so many people I went and found this; thank you George Hatzis; that’s 128 people killed by John Wick, including two killed with the same pencil.
You know what; it gets kind of samey. It was fresh the first time, and it’s still completely competent the second time, but well before the body count was into the high double figures I was just wincing at the waste of human life instead of savouring the drive in the shoot out. The Red Circle night club shoot out in the first movie is so over the top it takes on a life of its own. Chapter Two; not so much.
What was new and fun was expanding the mythology. The weird shadow economy of assassins has Continental Hotels all over the place, all running off the huge chunky gold coin standard. They have stupid-ass markers which let you keep track of blood debts. There’s a vast 1950s switchboard area where tattooed women take phone calls to place murder contracts, type them up on IBM machines from before there were ever colour TVs, and then somehow text them out to every mobile phone in assassin land. There’s a king of the beggars, because of course there is. And all of that is somehow going to be pointed at John Wick in Chapter Three, because by the time the movie is over, he’s managed to get the whole mythology pissed off with him. Bad news for the mythology, because when John Wick announces that he’s going to kill everyone - well, look at the graphic, people. Chapter 3 is going to be like weaponised ebola.
But here’s my thing, for what little it’s worth. Everywhere John Wick goes, he’s recognised. Everywhere he MIGHT go, people are talking about him in hushed whispers. And yet, when he gets pressured into coming out of retirement, it’s because he’s the ghost who no-one ever sees. How the hell can you be the world’s most well-known mystery man? It’s like being the world’s tallest midget.