19/02/17, John Wick 2
There are films where at a certain point you feel like you're standing at a precipice, staring out into the void. I had one of those moments last night at a late-night showing of John Wick 2. How to summarise my anomie? I felt I had accidentally wandered into a pornographic cinema for people who love guns. It was, as the cliché goes, as much computer game as movie, a Grand Theft Auto with the saving grace of Keanu Reeves loping with that awkward, distinctive gait. Only worse, the violence was so much sillier and unrealistic than any computer game. To explain, with deadened eyes:
Keanu is constantly fighting secret hitmen of a global organisation of hitmen, a bit like Spectre in James Bond except none of these hitmen seem to be able to shoot except at the torso. Which is fortunate because Keanu Reeves wears a bulletproof vest for most of the movie, and so even at close range, rifle fire and semi-automatic machinegun fire seem to leave no mark, even on Keanu's well-tailored suit. Keanu, meanwhile, is the only hitman in this organization who has worked out it's better to shoot at their heads or their legs. Cue lots of gunshots at people's heads by Keanu. Or shots at people's feet and legs. Cue lots of hitmen hopping around painfully or dying around him, dozens, and dozens, and dozens.
The strangest, most egregious moment, however, is at the end, when the 'manager' of the hitman club talks to Keanu in a park full of people going about their daily lives. Briefly, the manager holds up his hand and the hundred or so people in the park immediately stop and face him. Was this to denote his power over the world? I felt that here was a badly-judged confirmation that we're in a John-Wick world where all rules are suspended, a computer game without internal logic, and the makers of the film can do whatever they want. And that's when I realized I'd just been exposed to a parallel Matrix, where Neo took the blue pill instead of the red one and is living out a sub-hero fantasy. This is in fact the only sensible perspective for appreciating or understanding this film, with Keanu's sub-Neo using impressive-but-not-gravity-defying martial arts, and lots of guns, but to no particular heroic end. And making the analogy even stronger is the appearance of Laurence Fishburne halfway through this film, who of course played Morpheus in The Matrix and similarly seems to be playing out a kind of blue-pill, sub-Morpheus role here.So to my sad conclusion. John Wick 2: a blue-pill version of The Matrix, with the heroes I previously loved, having given up trying to save the world.