A friend recently got around to watching this movie and reminded me of the minimal-reshoot revisions that I posited back in May of last year! So without further ado, here’s how I would have edited John Wick 2 to make it slightly more coherent (though we all know you’re just watching for the action anyway).
I find rewriting movies in my head to be a really helpful exercise for me, especially if I really enjoyed the movie but it didn’t quite work on some fundamental level. After all, a lot of times I really enjoy writing a first (or second, or third) draft but I still know something is broken. Looking at other people’s work critically helps me to be a better editor of my own work. No one escapes the hatchet. And watching a movie only takes a couple of hours, so it’s easier to clearly see what worked and what didn’t than it is when you’re reading a whole book. It’s a fun, quick exercise for the would-be writer.
The first step, for me, to making John Wick 2 an even more fun film is to reorder the beginning.
We all enjoyed that motorcycle scene, but for me watching John Wick beat up his car for no reason didn’t make a lot of sense. A character even makes reference to this later in the movie. It’s way cooler if he tries to get his car back without damaging it first. Then it’s not just about making someone else pay – he really does love his car, and so I’d start with John Wick going directly to the Russian boss and negotiating for his car. All the dialogue, etc, can be the same. The guy says he can leave with his car – or maybe he says “If you can get it out of here it’s yours, no questions, we’re even.” In either case, whether John Wick is doublecrossed or passing a test, we still get our awesome car chase scene with the car getting absolutely obliterated but it now makes sense. It’s sort of accidental that all the bad shit happens to it – it shows that Wick isn’t totally infallible as in the latter half of the last film. He’s trying to be good again. Which is important, because that’s key to what happens next.
The point of Wick is that he wants to be a good person, but isn’t. He wants out, but he isn’t out. But he’s not stupid, and he knows the rules. I think when Santino shows up with his marker, John has to take it before his house gets blown up, because he sees it as an opportunity to be out again. Santino can promise him this – one last job, and you’re free to go back to your life in your empty house as long as you never step a foot back into this world. A debt for a debt. A fair exchange. And Wick is a professional. He’s built his life on these kinds of exchanges. He trusts Santino because he held up his end of the bargain before.
Of course, then Santino doublecrosses him.
This part of the movie, from taking the job to fighting his way out of the tunnels, is pretty much as shot. The only difference is that John runs for home at the end – because he still thinks home is safe. That’s when Santino destroys his house.
And now John Wick is a very angry man. See, no one steals from the Boogeyman. If he can’t be out, then he’ll be all the way in.
Now the movie continues, John running around trying to get to Santino for vengeance – only he doesn’t have the power and connections he did and everyone is gunning for him. It makes sense, then, that he will choose to kill Santino at the end – he’s pissed off, the guy has outfoxed him at every turn, gone back on his word, and taken everything from him. A little bit of a stretch, but one we can buy into because we really don’t like Santino anyway. We can rationalize that he’s taking out a bad dude, and that’s why he leaves his honor at the door.
Anyway, that’s just my take. I hope you enjoy the movie either way! If you liked this post, I’d also suggest this awesome Rogue One edit by Max Gladstone. Feel free to steal this exercise to help develop your editing chops.