John Wick: Chapter 2, review

When John Wick came out in 2015, it was received with shock. Mostly because no one thought that this generic looking action film would be any good, let alone Keanu would be so badass at 50. However it was met with praise from both critics and fans due to it’s hardcore fight scenes and the stunningly well-choreographed gun battles. The fast paced shooting made for not only entertaining viewing but also showed how slick and smooth an action film can look. It subverted the genre and showed that yes, Keanu CAN act. Well, after the surprise success he is of course back for a sequel in John Wick: Chapter 2.

The film opens almost around the time that the first one ends with a high octane chase involving John Wick in a car going after a man on a motorbike, culminating in a crash. From here until he drives away, it’s business as usual. Using his own car, he goes on an all out attack as he runs over, crashes into and beats his assailants whilst barely leaving the vehicle. Arriving at his home we see what he really wanted; he pulls out a greeting card and photo of his dead wife.

For almost an hour after, most of what we see is set up. John has a marker which he must honour as per the rules of the safe house hotel known as The Continental. Wanting to retire for good, he refuses, however after being attacked at home, he takes on his obligatory and hopefully last job. John travels to Rome to execute his target and thus begins his career as a killer once more. The overly long set up once he arrives at his destination feels baggy and boring after being handed such a stunning and brutal opening. Picking his perfect set of weapons as well as having a couple of suits made feels very James Bond and at times also reminds you of Kingsman. But it’s neither of these films after that.

Keanu isn’t quite as good as he is in the first one, his take on one of his most notable roles second time round seems slightly forced. He’s good with a gun but not much else. His conversations with Winston, and pretty much everyone in Chapter 2, makes it look as if Keanu doesn’t want to be there. Whilst Ian McShane is as cool as ever and carries each scene he’s in with his laid back no nonsense demeanour, the pair just aren’t as playful this time around.

Some fans will be excited for the Matrix reunion but even that’s not particularly interesting. John visits Bowery King, played by the slightly hammy Lawrence Fishburne, whose help he needs. But after revealing a scar created by a bullet shot by John years earlier, why would he help him? In exchange for something he’s offered in return? What is it? We never find out. Perhaps something that’s being saved for the sequel but it’s one of several plot points which is unforgivably overlooked. The addition of the wonderful Ruby Rose should have been a stroke of genius had she been able to speak. She communicates through sign language although it’s never apparent that she’s deaf. Essentially she’s boiled down to a pretty face in a suit with a gun.

Directed by Chad Stahelski, the visionary behind the first film, he seems to have forgotten that the best parts of John Wick consisted of Keanu slickly shooting people. Whilst there’s plenty of that there (I won’t tell you how many people he kills in Chapter 2 but, wow!) there are far too many slow paced sequences which adds to the overlong running time. Setting up a film like this shouldn’t take this long and Stahelski knows that. The rule of a sequel is always to go bigger, and it did. Unfortunately.

Altogether John Wick Chapter 2 is nothing like it’s predecessor. It’s heavier, longer and at times just plain boring. With another sequel in the works also to be directed by Stahelski, it’s yet another film turned into an unnecessary trilogy.

3 out of 5.

Keep. It. Reel.

Jason Bourne, review

When The Bourne Identity was first released in 2002, it was hailed for its gritty grounded action and fight sequences, choreographed to brutal perfection and carried out beautifully by Matt Damon. It kept this throughout the original trilogy and made Bourne into a force to be reckoned with when it came to spy films and action sequences. This is kept in the latest installment which stars Damon who has teamed up with Paul Greengrass once again. They both famously claimed neither would do a film without the other, so they have returned, together. Nine years after surviving Bourne Ultimatum, we see Jason having flashbacks whilst on his way to an illegal fight where bets are placed and big guys are pitted up against bigger guys. It’s soon after this during another bought, he meets Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) who brings him back into the firing line with new pieces of information she has acquired.

jason-bourne1

From the start, it’s classic Bourne. The fight scenes are kept intimate and harsh, with the camera moving close in, shaky enough to feel immersed into the action, not so much that you can’t understand what’s going on. With the storyline veering towards Bourne’s past (or David Webb’s if you prefer his real name) going back to the days which lead up to the start of Treadstone, it feels more personal than ever so it’s fitting that we see more of Bourne’s skill set. There’s something to be said about how consistently original the fight scenes look in all of the Bourne films. Using a pen as a weapon, disarming police officers without meaning to, beating someone with a book or rolling up a magazine to smack his opponent before blowing him up. Some may sound ludicrous however, it’s not that he’s killing them with these items, it’s that fact that he’s a smart enough character to know how to distract them. It’s knowing how to use them and what effect they will have is where he stands apart from the rest. Bourne is like a Swiss army knife, all the utensils you can ever think of, but instead of being attached to him, it’s everything around him which he uses as a weapon.

Jason-Bourne-2

Whilst this had lot of the signature Bourne attributes (people trying to find Jason with tech and surveillance, sit down meetings talking about him, close up fight scenes, car chases although lacking a Mini) the atmospheric feeling you had with the previous films just wasn’t there and it’s primarily down to the performances. There’s a host of new characters including Alicia Vikander’s Heather Lee, a person hell bent on getting Bourne to come in, Robert Dewey the CIA Director played by Tommy Lee Jones who is right amount of Tommy Lee Jones and the right amount of angry man out to stop a mistake from the past. Whilst Jones brings enough to the role that he needs to, Vikander feels very underwhelming. Her performance is more robotic than her role in Ex Machina. Vikander’s mono tone delivery of every single line left her character as a one dimensional version of the much better Pamela Landy, portrayed by Joan Allen in The Bourne Supremacy. Damon was as good as always, Stiles was painfully under used and only served as a way for Bourne to have a reason to return to the world of espionage. Ato Essandoh who played Jones’s character’s right hand man Craig Jeffers is mostly there to deliver lines for the trailer and talk about Snowden a couple of times. Very clumsy references which are painfully shoehorned in. One actor who you can always rely on is Vincent Cassel who played a character known only as Asset. This is literally what he was. Brought in to take down Bourne, he is one of the few saving graces of this film. Bringing a quiet violent performance which Cassel is used to be now, the fact that he’s called Asset bring a consistent air of mystery to him. This is what you call good writing.

000223041-jason-bourne

There is a problem with the pre-finale car chase is very much all guns blazing and a huge disappointment mostly due to where it takes place and it’s at this moment you realise that the grounding of Bourne has been taken away, which is a real shame. Throughout this film, there are new fight scenes to enjoy, in particular the final scene, bike and car chases which aren’t exciting enough and a storyline which, whilst good, is ultimately a revenge plot that goes wrong a lot of the time. Bourne is supposed to be in hiding, no one has heard from him in years, then why is it that he keeps looking back and into the camera of those trying to take him down? Bourne is like a superhero fighting his enemies with his fists, under a fake identity and trying to allude the authorities. However this outing feels more Man of Steel than The Dark Knight.

3 out of 5.

Keep. It. Reel.

The Expendables 2 new poster

I recently put up a new trailer for The Expendables 2 which is clearly going to be bigger, badder, tougher and harder than the previous film, adding more testosterone than you’ve ever seen on one screen! The same can be said for this poster which shows all of the stars from the film standing in form, doing their best to look as hard as they can! With most of them pushing a considerably older age shall we say, they are doing a dam good job at it! And well done for not jumping up and down in the pit of fire, you guys are fucking tough! YEAH!!! FEEL THE BURN!!! Literally.

 

Image

 

Django Unchained trailer

The latest film from Quentin Tarantino looks like a return to his more traditional films such as Pulp Fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Inglorious Basterds was a very good film and a long worth while wait for his war flick that had been in the making for 10 years or so. But there was something un-Tarantino about it. Either way, Django, with it’s excessive violence, superb cast and brilliant soundtrack (2 songs are played in the trailer, I hope the rest are just as good) looks like another winner for the God of Violence. Watch and enjoy, it’s all we have until Christmas!

30 Trailer Challenge: Trailer 13.

Now I’ve let these trailers slide a little. Sorry about that. However, it’s back. A new trailer which I have been waiting for. Skyfall has arrived. From the looks of it yes, it has some typical Bond scenes but you have to expect that. But it also looks different. It looks like it will change things for Bond and for the franchise. Take a look for yourselves and let me know what you think. I must admit I’m exicted, very exited.