This new entry in the John-Wick-as-a-genre canon is built upon a power fantasy, and general fantasy, that I have no interest in. This is a middle-aged dude impotence-film, in which an act of sensibility (not murdering the people who are so desperate that they take advantage of you leaving your garage door slightly open and decide to pull of shoddy robbery with a gun you know isn’t loaded) is treated as utter humiliation.
This man’s manhood is at manly stake, as his teenage son seems him as pathetic and his wife won’t have sex with him. Yes, he still has the close affections of his young daughter, but this is seemingly presented as another failure. This unmanly supposed man is then mocked by authority figures, testosterone fuelled neighbours and the brother of his wife. The only thing left to do is to introduce some random Russians so that they can be murdered in a way that restores the necessary masculinity.
That’s the film.
It is, in politics and narrative, more Taken than John Wick. Yes, John Wick enters into stereotypes and lurches near to conservativism, but it takes place in an ultra-stylised world where the focus is on cinematic spectacle. This film has the aesthetic of a rough and ready, stripped down thriller. It is all grit and middle-aged disaffection. At the centre is Bob Odenkirk, whom I really like. He’s a convincing mid-life crisis but not a convincing fighter. The film is constructed to work around this, at points giving you action in which he does take hits (which is at least interesting) but it the combat mostly very slow and cut around. This very much lacks the theatrical joys of more stylish action films, its murkier and grittier aesthetic just marrying up with the yawn-inducing conservatism of the film’s moral framework.
It all just feels tired, like the protagonist, but not in a critical or emotional way. We have an intrusive soundtrack, full of on the nose needle drops (often linked with actual needle drops) as clichéd pop music choices just tell you the theme or emotion of the scene. It is all very done before and is all there to prop up how this dude is cool now that he is going to do some murder. Now, I love a great action movie, but the tiresome framework saps it of interest.
This is a film built around the idea that boring old white dudes could actually be CIA or FBI (or whatever) badasses. That there are evil Russians and the like out there threatening our very American way of life. It is all on a very individualist level, with no wider political statement, but this pushes it further into conservativism. The ideology of the film is of the family as society, the thing to protect by doing the bad things to the badder guys so that they don’t do their bad things to you. It is just boring to me. It is just so done. There’s an element of goofiness to the script which could really help it, but the direction pushes away from this, and pushes me away at the same time.