by Coop Cooper
“John Wick: Chapter 2” – Retired hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) assaults the stronghold of Russian mob boss Abram (Peter Stomare) to retrieve his stolen car from the first film. After doing so, he considers himself once again retired and ready to finally settle down in peace. When a ruthless ex-associate D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) tracks Wick down and demands a long-standing debt to paid through trade, Wick refuses on principle. When D’Antonio makes it clear that refusal is not an option, Wick goes back to work, traveling to Italy for one last job. Of course, when things go sour, Wick must shoot his way out of the situation with killers (lead by Ruby Rose and Common) coming at him from all sides.
This film tries to top the action sequences in the first film and does so in volume and audacity. An equally rewarding aspect of the film is how it expands on the mythology of this exaggerated world of larger-than-life hitmen and the rules they follow. Here we learn that the network of killers is massive and worldwide and that the safe haven ‘The Continental’ exists in more places than New York. Also, there seems to be a lack of cops in this world as they never seem to be present when the chaos is in play. Although it’s kind of hilarious that anyone would try to double-cross or even look a John Wick the wrong way considering the destruction he caused in the first film, it does set up for some outrageous, hyper-violent scenes and spectacular fight choreography. Keanu’s dedication to learning how to use firearms like a professional competition shooter really heightens the excitement as well.
After they 1990’s, I figured the bombastic, heavily-stylized action films like John Woo’s “The Killer” (1989), “Hard Boiled” (1992) and “Hard Target” (1993) were passe. I think “John Wick” 1 & 2 may have single-handedly resurrected this potentially profitable sub-genre. This one might actually be better than the original and it would appear there is more John Wick to come.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“A Cure for Wellness” – A cutthroat, young corporate executive named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is tasked to retrieve his company’s CEO (Harry Groener) from an extremely exclusive medical spa in the Swiss Alps. Upon arriving, he finds the ghoulish staff and the inscrutable head doctor, Volmer (Jason Isaacs), to be evasive and uncooperative. When an accident puts him in the hospital’s care, Lockhart discovers sinister happenings within the facility that he can’t seem to escape from. As Lockhart uncovers the mystery of the spa, he discovers a beautiful child-like woman (Mia Goth) who may hold the key to the secret of ‘the cure’ that Dr. Volmer claims will rid people of all ailments.
I was thoroughly disappointed at how the film set up such a promising premise, only to have it devolve into a simplistic monster movie at the end. The trailers and marketing for it seemed to promise some sort of dark existential fable on how the suffering we experience in life is some sort of horrific disease… that we are doomed and the only release is to transform into another existence (i.g. death). A few past films have successfully explored this idea in different ways and while it is a rare concept to run across in cinema, some actually get it right. Gary Sherman’s “Dead and Buried” (1981), David Cronenberg’s “Videodrome” (1983) and his underrated horror film “Crash” (1996) are creepy examples. Even the upcoming film “The Discovery” (opening in March) starring Robert Redford, Jason Segel and Rooney Mara will be exploring this concept in a very literal way. Instead, “A Cure for Wellness” decided to dumb things down in the last 45 minutes and devolve into a classic creature feature similar to “Phantom of the Opera” or “Dracula”, only it tends to rip those films off without being wholly original.
“Wellness” is also two and a half hours long, about an hour longer than it should be. It could have shaved off that lame ending, stuck with the nightmarish aspects of what it marketed itself as and it could have been a near-perfect film. Despite all of this, Mia Goth is a force of nature. Her performances are frighteningly bold and uncanny. She will be one to watch in the upcoming years.
Rating: 2 and ½ out of 5 stars