If you were fortunate enough to see John Wick Chapter 2 this weekend there might have been a few things that stood out to you if you are an action movie fan. One of the side effects of seeing this movie is finding yourself pulling out old exercise equipment and practicing a few moves you might have learned from a martial arts class you took decades ago. There is good reason for this and it is the mythology the movie used to play to the ideology of men.
After the initial scene where John finally gets his car back, nothing like trying to tie up a few loose ends from the first movie, we find John still mourning the loss of his wife. While he is retired from the business he is brought back due to a favor he owes a man that he doesn’t want to owe. The task is one that John doesn’t want to take and in the end the job is done for him. After completing the mission a contract is put out for John and he is on the run while trying to kill the man that pulled him back in. It is during this portion of the movie we start to see the mythology of the character start to come out, or as they like to call it these days, the Easter eggs.
The first job takes place in the roman colosseum, with some of the scenes taken directly from the Bruce Lee movie The Way of the Dragon (or Return of the Dragon for those not familiar with the original titles) where Bruce fights Chuck Norris, an equal opponent in martial arts. There is more to it in John Wick, who has to fight a small army while trying to escape, using a mix of Judo and gun fighting skills to reach safety. It is at this point John is a black belt in his field. He is the man that knows all the tricks and has become one of the best in his field, but like any black belt that doesn’t mean his journey is over. Like the road of the artist they must learn everything for their art before they can get really creative. Keep in mind John is an artist.
Then there was the subway scene, taking us back to the Matrix movies and reminding us where we have seen this version of Keanu reeves before. It was times like this where I wondered if John Wick was just a continuation of the Matrix movies, Neo plugged into a world where Trinity is still dead and he tries to forget the life he lived before. To feed into this theory Laurence Fishburne appears as the leader of an underground clan whose headquarters is located underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. We have seen this before in the movie Johnny Mnemonic, another Keanu Reeves action film from the 1990s. At this point, John Wick is forced to prove his abilities by trying to kill his target with only seven bullets in his gun, a play on numerology and the importance of the number seven. Of course, the bullets don’t last and he is forced to steal the weapons of the men he kills much like Bruce Lee had to change styles in his movie The Game of Death. Unlike The Game of Death, the fight scene ends in a mirrored room, changing films to Enter the Dragon, another Bruce Lee film. The final stage of John Wick’s transformation is having to fight himself, not being distracted by himself and his own image and killing his ego in order to reach his goal. The famous scene where Bruce Lee starts to smash the mirrors wasn’t because it was the only way to find his enemy but to kill the one thing holding him back in life and his enlightenment.
The woman he fights, a deaf assassin, was a nice homage to the Thai film Bangkok Dangerous, about a young man that over comes his disabilities and learns to become a proficient killer. Wick continues on and ends the confrontation by doing that which every martial artist must do in order to find themselves, he breaks the rules. He follows his own path and kills the man in the continental hotel. We learn about the untouchable safe zones in the first movie when Ms. Perkins tries to break the rules and is later killed when her membership to the continental is revoked. John does this knowing the repercussions and accepts his fate becoming the man on the run with a price on his head, or Caine from Kung Fu. The only question is, with his skills, do the rules still apply to him. How can he be deemed in violation of the rules if he is beyond the judgement of those that created him? This is the true start of John Wick, the ability to start over in uncharted territory where what he knew has been destroyed and he is free to write his own rule book as he moves along.