Fans of Keanu Reeves and the first John Wick movie will enjoy this sequel. In the first movie, John (a Russian hitman known as the Boogeyman) takes on the Russian mafia and kills the lot of them singlehandedly (no, that’s not a spoiler). The premise for doing so is that they killed his dog and stole his car. Strangely, that premise made the first movie so emotionally compelling that most viewers could ignore the movie’s minor shortcomings (apparently, it was something of a surprise commercial success).
In the second movie, Keanu takes on the Italian mafia and kills the lot of them singlehandedly (come on, that really isn’t a spoiler). His premise for doing so is that they blew up his house. Hmm. Not quite as compelling a reason as the first movie – indeed, this second chapter lacks the ‘heart’ of the first chapter. But you know what you’ve signed up to when you’re watching a sequel. This second movie is a visual and stylish delight (like the first), with very Matrix-like retro-phones and steampunk touches in the Edwardian hotels, etc. And then Laurence Fishburne turns up (aka Morpheus in the Matrix), making the referencing, vibe and styling complete. Yet it seems so much style over content. The fighting style (‘Gun Fu’) is fascinating to watch, but when the body count gets near the two hundred mark it really is more than a tad repetitive. And Keanu himself looks great – but is still as wooden an actor as ever he was.
This second chapter DOES move the franchise on, however, with some decent world-building, an interesting use of homeless people, a homocidal deaf girl, several cryptic references to ‘the high table’, increased use of the Boogeyman mythos and the effective use of social paranoia. It is worth the watch for fans of the series. And good news: The Third Chapter is due out in 2019. Hurrah!
Charlize Theron plays an MI6 spy sent to Berlin at the end of the 1980s. She has to do something or other while remaining pretty and stylish throughout. She also has to beat up or shoot umpteen men – while still looking pretty and stylish – and choreographing herself to a retro soundtrack. And fitting in some lesbian action too.
Sounds great, right? It ain’t. We simply don’t care about her character – there’s no moral dilemma to engage us emotionally, there’s no actual peril (cos the action is all in flashback, so we know she survives) and there’s no mystery (cos the baddie/double-agent is revealed very early on). In fact, there’s not much of anything going on in this movie.
The characterisation of Charlize in the first five minutes of the movie basically consists of – look, she’s pretty, and she’s been injured in a fight, so you feel sorry for her, and, see, you get a flash of her naked breasts too. Despite all the hype, this is definitely not a feminist movie. It’s basically soft-porn for a male audience (the direction of the scenes is all about ‘the male gaze’). The lesbian sex scene is simply embarrassing. Movies like Bound (made all the way back in 1997) put Atomic Blonde to absolute shame. Atomic shame.
The plot is predictable and largely irrelevant. The supporting cast (James McAvoy does his best, but there’s only so much he can achieve) of characters is as uninteresting as Charlize’s own character. Charlize’s ‘British’ accent is as bad as just about everything else in this film. Alright, there’s one decent fight scene on a staircase, but it’s nowhere near enough to redeem this movie. At the end of the day, if you like the genre of thriller-killer movies, you’ll be far better off watching John Wick (again, if you’ve already seen it).
Overall, I can’t really give it more than 6 out of 10. That’s probably a tad generous too.