This film, a sequel to John Wick, is remarkable. The first film tells of a retired hit man who is lured back into practice with the promise of compensation that will permit him to retire and to marry. He lives up to his reputation and then some. He is not so much an assassin as a murder machine, cementing the regard accorded him.
In retirement, Wick marries, only to lose his wife to disease. After the funeral, he receives a gift that his wife had sent him—a puppy. The note says that she has made her peace with
impending death, and wants John to find peace as well.
Later, John, accompanied by his pet, takes his classic Mustang for a drive, in the course of which the son of a big time mobster admires the car and asks to buy it. John refuses the offer and returns home.
That night the son and his henchmen invade John’s home, beating him, breaking the puppy’s neck and stealing the car. The mobster chief, realizing that his son has awakened a sleeping
dragon, sends a team to proactively kill John Wick, all of whom Wick bloodily dispatches along with additional assassins sent by the boss.
The boss finally captures Wick, who manages to escape and to track down and kill the boss’s son.
The sequel, Chapter 2, begins with Wick’s recovery of his beloved Mustang from a chop shop owned by the boss’s brother. Wick deals lethally with the hornet’s nest of mobsters in and
around the chop shop, then finds its owner but proposes “peace,” echoing his dead wife’s wish and hoping to resume his retirement.
They agree, but Wick’s peace is intruded on by the arrival of an Italian mobster to whom Wick had, much earlier, made an unbreakable blood oath to assist. This mobster wants Wick to
kill the mobster’s sister because he envies the sister’s place at “The High Table,” the governing council of the gangdom universe. Trapped by the obligation, Wick prepares for his mission by visiting The Continental, a hotel catering to gangdom, which boasts an unbreakable rule: no killing on the premises. There he transacts for weapons with a sommelier of arms and a tailor of bespoke suits equipped with bulletproof interlining and accommodations for weaponry.
He journeys to Rome and kills the sister, requiring a murderous exchange with her guardians. After breaking arms and necks, strangling, stabbing and shooting, and disposing of almost all of them, he finds himself having to deal with the brother who had commissioned the murder, who wants to tidy up by killing Wick. After more mayhem, Wick finds the brother in the bar of The Continental and shoots him. His violation of the no murder mandate results in a High Table order for Wick’s assassination. Wick is given an hour’s grace and leaves, promising to kill
anyone who comes after him.
The popularity of this film and its predecessor is evidence of the audience appeal of violence, an appeal also demonstrated by the long-running, apparently endless Bourne series. It
demonstrates the validity of the Freudian view that aggression, like sex, is a primal drive. John Wick is especially artful in facilitating a guilt-free gratification of that need.
Standards of art and fashion, and I would argue, morality, are parodied by their exaggerated display. Think of drag queens and Liberace. The term “camp” was first employed as a
description of some forms of homosexuality. The etymology of that term is uncertain, but some suggest it derives from the French le camper, to pose or display. The audience laughter
during the blood-spattered episodes of John Wick, the film’s notion of immorality decorated with unbreakable rules and of standards of fashion in the tools of killing, suggest that there
can be campy aggression, posed and exaggerated to the point of provoking laughter rather than disgust, shame, pity or fear.