Tag Archives: Ruby Rose

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

I remember in 2014, I went into this Keanu Reeves movie that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. There was very little advertising and not even an announcement or trailer until just a month or two before it was released. It was called John Wick.

No one expected John Wick is tear it up at the box office, earning nearly US$90m worldwide on a US$20 million budget, and transforming Keanu into the best middle-aged action superstar since Liam Neeson in Taken. And for once, John Wick did not feel like just yet another movie trying to mimic Taken — it had its own story hook and visual style, inventive action sequences, and created its own mythology with the “Continental”, essentially an assassin hotel.

In all honesty, while I liked John Wick, I wasn’t quite as enamored with it as most others who thought it was one of the best action movies ever. I believe one of the reasons is because the film was already so hyped up by the time I got around to it. So this time, though I knew the reviews were great, I avoided trailers and reading about the movie, and went into John Wick 2 with tempered expectations.

And wow, I absolutely loved it!

Continuing on almost immediately from the end of the first film, the titular John Wick begins the story by trying to get his car back from a Russian mobster played by the awesome Peter Stromare. So it’s crazy action from the get-go and things only get more insane when Wick’s past comes back to haunt him. It’s a one-man-against-the-rest premise like Die Hard, except for John Wick, the dangers lurk wherever he is in the world.

John Wick 2 is still ultra-violent and super stylish, with loads of action that utilises minimal cuts and immersive camera work. At times it feels like you are watching the best adaptation of a first-person shooter (or over-the-shoulder) video game ever, and at others it’s as though you are watching a comic book come to life on the big screen. It is no wonder that director John Stahelski was hired to help out on the brilliant action sequences in Captain America: Civil War.

I used video games and comic books to describe the sensibilities of John Wick 2 because it’s the type of film you need to suspend a lot of disbelief. Apart from cranking the action and the stakes up to 11, the film also builds on the assassin mythology from its predecessor, extending beyond just the Continental to a whole world of assassin services. It’s fascinating and loads of fun, but only if you buy into. I compare it to the latest entries in the Fast & Furious franchise, in that if you don’t accept it for what it is, you’ll be rolling your eyes throughout the entire film, but if you do, you’ll have a whale of a time.

I was surprised just how much of the original cast returned, including the super assassin played by Common, the car repair dude played by John Leguizamo, and the friendly neighbourhood cop played by Thomas Sadoski, as well as the Continental’s Ian Mcshane and Lance Reddick. Notable newcomers are Riccardo Scamarcio and Aussie DJ Ruby Rose (who is just about everywhere these days), while those looking forward to a Matrix reunion between Keanu and Lawrence Fishburne will finally have their wish granted.

As for Keanu, he’s still Keanu. John Wick doesn’t have a lot of lines, but the lines he does have are delivered in the classic Keanu style — ie, pretty badly. Nonetheless, the physical stuff Keanu pulls off is absolutely astounding, and apparently the film went out of its way to ensure that the physics of the action is as close to reality as possible. It’s a strange form of surrealistic realism that works and makes John Wick the kind of unique universe I’d love to return to.

On the whole, even though it’s only February, I’ll be surprised if I end up watching a better pure action film than John Wick 2 this year. So if you’re old enough and can stomach the violence, do yourself a favour and check out a John Wick 2 with a big bag of popcorn.

4.5 stars out of 5

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

Look. I knew there was a 99.99% probability that Resident Evil: The Final Chapter was not going to be any good. But it was December 31, and I had gotten a rare day off from work and family duties for the first and last time of 2016. I just wanted to relax and do something I enjoy—and that’s to watch a movie, no matter how bad it may be. And you know what? It was really, really bad.

Having been a fan of the video game series on which the films are (loosely) based since the very first one on PS1 in 1996, I have stuck with the Resident Evil movies all the way through as well (or at least I think I have, because they all blend together after a while and don’t have any consistent coherency or logic). This “Final Chapter”, or so they say, is more of the same. Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, the ass-kicking warrior waging war against the Umbrella Corporation that unleashed the zombie apocalypse on the world with the T-virus 10 years ago. Ali Larter, in desperate need of a paycheck, also reprises her role as Claire Redfield, basically a shittier version of Alice.  Additional returnees are Shawn Roberts, who plays the wearing-sunglasses-indoors-and-at-all-times villain Wesker, and Game of Thrones alum Iain Glen (Ser Jorah Mormont) is back as Dr Sam Isaacs.

If you’ve watched any of the previous films, I know what you’re thinking: Haven’t some or all of these people died already? Multiple times? Yes and yes. But it doesn’t matter. For the sake of money the plot, everyone can be brought back. Of the new cast members, the only one I know of is Aussie DJ Ruby Rose, who has been in a lot of things lately. I wish she could have done more, but she’s a sorry footnote of a character who doesn’t get anywhere close to living up to her potential.

Actually, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter plays out very much like a bad video game. I thought the film started off well, with Alice basically recapping the entire film series up until now in a way that made the story almost seem coherent, and there’s a couple of early jump scares that had me hopeful of a solid horror action flick. But then, a plot contrivance is created to put the story for this film in motion, and it’s an absolute stinker. It’s so bad and lame and lazy that I literally laughed out loud. And then it was all downhill from there. Like a video game, character actions and motivations are driven by what monster or plot device the movie wants to throw at the audience next. So you get a lot of scenes where Milla just walks into a place for no reason and then encounters enemies she needs to kill—and kill in spectacular fashion.

Knowing what I know about the franchise, I didn’t have a huge problem with that per se, or even the terrible dialogue or plot holes galore, or the “borrowing” of visual ideas and designs from The Walking Dead and Mad Max: Fury Road, or the plethora of other things that just defied belief. What I couldn’t stand was how badly the film was shot and edited, especially the action sequences. Writer and director Paul WS Anderson (Milla’s husband in real life) has some average films on his CV, but never have I seen him this lazy. Throughout the entire movie, you only get a vague idea of what is happening in terms of the action that’s taking place on the screen. Perhaps there were budgetary or time constraints, but every action sequence is marred by a ridiculous number of rapid cuts. And when the action’s not unwatchable because of the editing, it’s unwatchable because of the deliberate darkness (and this was in 2D, without the added darkness of 3D). It’s as though Anderson decided it was too much trouble shooting these scenes and just went, “F*%$ it, let’s just cut it or make it too dark to see anything properly.” It’s unfortunate because some of the ideas in the choreography aren’t all that bad. It even brought back possibly the only memorable idea from the entire franchise (Hint: It has something to do with lasers).

What you end up with is a movie that kicks off from a laughable starting point and premise, makes no sense from a plot perspective, has terrible dialogue, and is visually incoherent. Milla Jovovich does her best as she always does, but it’s not enough—and it’s never been enough—to save the movie. Iain Glen also gives it his best shot, making Dr Isaacs one of the better villains I’ve seen in the franchise, though there’s only so much he could do. The scariest thing about the whole thing is that, just when you think the franchise has reached its sad, wretched conclusion, there is a final wink at the possibility of a sequel. All I know is that if there ever is a Resident Evil: The REAL Final Chapter, I’ll be ready to waste my money on it.

1.5 stars out of 5

PS: Perhaps the film was cursed. I read that Olivia Jackson, Milla’s stunt double, was involved in an accident during filming that left her in a medically-induced coma for two weeks and led to a thumb and then an arm amputation. Another crew member, Ricardo Cornelius, was crushed to death by a prop on set.