Writing Movie “WRONGS”
By Jim West
John Wick 2
Directed by Chad Stahelski
Written by Derek Kolstad
In the first John Wick film we get introduced to a retired hitman whom the criminal underworld knows as “Baba Yaga” aka “The Boogeyman”. A man who embodies death itself. This film brings back this retired hitman with more bullets and bad people to kill. The action is well choreographed, and shot with a steady camera instead of the headache inducing shaky cams from most action flicks these days. That are the highlights of this film, but the story suffers tremendously with the compulsive need to pit multiple bad guys against our lone hero.
Here goes the spoilers!
The film opens with John Wick (Keanu Reeves) tying up or rather shooting up the loose ends from the first film. He gets home and not a day later before a man from his past shows up with a marker that shows a blood oath was made for a favor given long ago. A favor by which allowed John to retire from his life as an assassin. John outright refuses to honor this marker and in minutes finds his house destroyed by the man he refused to honor his marker with. John sets off to the Continental Hotel, which from the first film is a safe haven by which assassins have to respect the rules of no ‘business’ conducted on hotel grounds. This part of the film is intriguing and very reminiscent of how churches were utilized in the Highlander films. Of course much like the Highlander film’s rules do get broken. The writer pitches our hero first against run of the mill henchmen which he dispatches with relative ease. Next John must face off with a high level crime boss’s hired assassin Cassius (played by Common). Common does a fantastic job in most of the film’s best action sequences with Keanu. Yet there must be higher stakes than just Cassius. So the writer gives up the right hand woman assassin of the film’s big bad guy, D’antonio, whom John owes an oath to. D’antonio wants John to assassinate his sister who sits at a crime boss ‘high table’ so he can take her place. John eventually takes on this task and completes his oath, but of course he is now a loose end that must be killed off. Predictable, but expected of most action films John shoots his way through more henchmen who obviously did not attend the same assassin school as Wick or Cassius did. Cassius made for a formidable opponent, but it isn’t long until the stakes are raised again by D’antonio putting a contract out for John offering 7 million for him killed. Now every assassin in the world is gunning for him. John returns to New York and in one night has to defend himself and kill six assassins, and to wrap up the night he has a spectacular knife fight with Cassius on a subway car. The passengers don’t seem too concerned…maybe a New York thing. Yet the fight is well done, but John stabs Cassius in the aorta and tells Cassius if he pulls out the knife he will die. Thus sparing Cassius to live to kill another day (possible return in a later film). After this it is just downhill stakes wise. There are no higher stakes. Cassius wants John dead because he killed his ward and is honoring the same code John does. Plus for Cassius it is personal as he cared for his ward that John killed. That made for great conflict and on that subway car the film begins to fall flat.
The last act of the film puts John on a direct path to a party at a museum where D’antonio is attending. With the help of Laurence Fishburne’s character, Bowery King, he is able to just walk right into the party (great security there crime bosses). John has a gun with seven bullets (one bullet for each million his head is worth), but soon take another’s gun to continue his rampage of death. STOP. Why write this in the script Derek? Yes Derek I am calling you out on putting in dialogue that does not further the plot or enhance the story. If John Wick is so deadly he can kill people with a pencil (great scene by the way), then have him put those seven bullets to fantastic use. Honestly I thought at that moment I was going to see Wick’s version of what Deadpool did in the intro of that fantastic film. Yet the seven bullets served no other purpose than just to enforce the need to acquire someone else’s weapon quickly. No imagination there. John could’ve shot a servers tray full of champagne glasses shattering them across the faces of a group of henchmen, to which John can rush them and dispatch. Then another bullet can hit a man with an automatic weapon which spins him around taking out his group of henchmen. Then have John grab a henchmen and throw him into another shooting once to kill them both. Again the scene possibilities are endless and can be done in a way to really unleash more creativity John has in the way his brain works when thinking about how to efficiently kill people with seven bullets. Then you create through THAT a new story about how John Wick killed thirty men with seven bullets. That would be the story people tell right after the pencil one. Nice huh?
The film ends with one of the two rules being broken in the hotel and John now is exiled from the organization of assassins and the bounty on his head has been doubled. Oh no! Raising stakes again and giving direct juice to a third John Wick film. Now by this point I am no impressed by the attempt to make excitement from a roller coaster story line that has no rush. It is just climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing. Eventually it become predictable and the best bad guy you had left the film with a knife in his chest. Now thank you Derek for not writing the female assassin as strong, because it was refreshing seeing Wick toss her around like nothing because…well physics and training of course! She really provided no threat to John. Cassius did and such a shame I didn’t get to see that knife fight at the END of the film. So this is how you make the film better. Go ahead and run the ENTIRE film as it is, but have John leaving the city on a subway and Cassius tracks him down. End the film with the same results with the knife in the chest, and John walks away knowing every assassin in the world is after him. Just edit that fight to close out the film please. Sometimes it is best to save the best for last.
Thanks for reading Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.