Review Round-Up: John Wick Chapter 2, It Comes at Night, A Cure for Wellness

Posted: July 5, 2017 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Written by Daniel Simpson

Reviewing movies on this blog has been a passion of mine for many years know, but as time goes by and I find myself with less time to dedicate to long reviews as real-life obligations grow and new passions develop. The most recent development has been my foray into video making, with video essays like this piece on Night of the Living Dead and this on The Matrix sequels. I’ve been finding video making immensely gratifying and would like to continue in this realm, but this also necessitates a change to my blogging. I’m not going to stop writing reviews, but moving forward I will be writing shorter reviews and including several in one post. I’m still leaving the possibility open for longer  reviews when they really strike me, but choosing to streamline my content should allow me to produce sharper work, and in greater quantity. And so, I present my first review round-up.

John Wick Chapter Two

John Wick 2

I was a little disappointed with John Wick when I first saw it. I’ve been meaning to give it another look, but I found myself really let down with the story despite really admiring the film’s action. I bring this up because, somewhat to my surprise, I quite enjoyed the film’s sequel. The story is in many ways just as simplistic and predictable, but for some reason this one really clicked with me. The fact that they had more of a budget definitely helped. Chapter 2 does have a more polished look and the action remains excellent. Apart from the opener, the first act is mostly relegated to set-up, but once shit hits the fan the pressure doesn’t let up. The film offers an amazing shoot-out starting in a concert which then spirals into a fight scene. From there, Wick becomes a hot target and has to contend with all manner of threat. The threat level is high and it also leads to some badass action.

The climax is a killer shoot-out in a hall of mirrors and while the ending is definitely setting up a sequel, it’s done in a way which is interesting, tense, and oddly dignified. That’s the other thing that endeared John Wick Chapter 2 to me. While this is just a silly action movie on it’s surface, there is a lot of attention paid to the notion of a violent life, the inability to escape from it, and the possibility that deep down John likes killing people. It does boil down quite simply to “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword” but it’s handled really well.

I do hope that for Chapter 3, the filmmakers are able to provide a more engaging story and a better villain, but this did a lot to win me over.


It Comes at Night


It Comes at Night has arrived to an interestingly mixed response. Critics are on-board entirely, but audiences are much more harsh and feel betrayed by marketing which sold them a more conventional horror movie. Even more so than last year’s The Witch, more general audiences seem to really hate this movie…and I don’t really know why. Well, I guess I do know. The movie is a lot slower than a modern Hollywood product, it leaves more mysteries left open than a lot of movies would, and the film’s ending does hit in a very abrupt way, but at the same time this is a very straightforward story that should be easy to engage with. Set in a not too distant future where some sort of disease has humanity and shambles and following a small family living in the woods, the film is really just a grounded look at survival in desperate times and the hard choices which come with it. The film’s third act in particular really dwells on some tough choices which don’t have easy answers. It’s odd to me that in a world where The Walking Dead is one of the most popular shows on television, a movie which is essentially an extended look at a situation which could well arise on an episode would cause such anger in general audiences.

Of course, the execution of It Comes at Night is far more low-key than something like The Walking Dead. Writer/director Trey Edward Shults focuses more on the routine the central family has created for itself and the slow psychological effect the situation is having on the teenage son. The emphasis is not on set-pieces, and the ones that do emerge are awkward and sloppy in that realist way. These set-pieces are highly tense by the way and that realist undercurrent is tangibly felt. Shults also focuses almost solely on our main characters, but that actually adds to the horror. Not knowing exactly what’s happening in the outside world makes the situation all the more scary and the ensuing troubles the group faces all the more suspenseful.

So yeah, to the surprise of no one, I’m pretty firmly on board with the critics on this one. I could have used more character development, especially for Carmen Ejogo’s Sarah, though her performance, along with those from Joel Edgerton and Kelvin Harrison Jr., is quite good. The film maybe also relies on some creepy dream sequences a bit more than it should, but all told this is a remarkably effective bit of horror cinema. It’s a tense affair which goes off-book and leaves the audience thinking about some difficult choices long after the credits have rolled.


A Cure for Wellness

cure_for_wellness_ver2_xlgA Cure for Wellness is a movie I really want to like. It’s Gore Verbinski returning to horror in absolutely unrestrained form, presenting a film with some wacky visuals, a dark R-rating, and some really perverse content. Unfortunately, the actual plot here feels largely ripped from Shutter Island and this film falls short of Scorsese’s underrated stylistic exorcise in a number of ways. First off, the main character sucks. He’s an over-the-top prick who isn’t the least bit likable and Dane DeHaan’s performance generally felt pretty phony to me. The movie also starts to become repetitive, its themes of modern work culture and over-working are haphazardly thought through and ultimately abandoned, and the central mystery is not terribly enticing. Frankly, I do sympathize with critics who skewered this thing because it is a bad movie in a lot of ways but I also can’t totally dismiss it either. Again, Verbinski does provide some really cool visuals and every so often there’s a very effective horror scene. Ultimately, the movie is a miss for me, but an admirable one in a lot of ways and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the film develop a cult following over time.


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