Like the sweet stray dogs that run and play during the opening scenes of Mon Oncle, Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot lives a free, unstructured life in an older section of Paris. He chats with neighbors, stops in the local pub, and takes things slowly. His only appointment is to pick up his 9-year-old nephew, Gérard after school. Hulot loves Gérard and the feeling is clearly mutual. With his uncle, Gérard can be a kid. He plays with other boys, gets his clothes dirty, and eats too many sweets. He has fun.
At the end of Army of Darkness, the final film the Evil Dead trilogy, we see our hero, Ash (Bruce Campbell) back at his workaday job as a clerk at S-Mart department store. Having just survived a barrage of challenges after being transported back to the Middle Ages (everything from dangerously skeptical knights to monstrous Deadites), Ash looks comfortable and assured in his familiar, modern-day surroundings. Ever the show-off, Ash brags that the people he encountered in the 1300’s – from commoners to royalty – offered him the chance “to lead them, to teach them, to…be king.” Ash’s cockiness is soon disrupted by the shocking appearance of a female customer-turned-Deadite. Despite her promises to swallow Ash’s soul, the Deadite is quickly defeated by our hero’s wily sarcasm and rapid-fire shotgun blasts.
During the first few seconds of John Wick: Chapter 2, the motorcycle sequence from Buster Keaton’s 1924 film, Sherlock Jr. is projected on the side of a building in New York City. This is no accident: The influence Keaton has on the John Wick franchise and action movies is immense. Technological advances aside, the influence is easy to discern: the stunt work, the cinematography, even the fundamental use of physical action as a form of storytelling. But while action movies have long exuded a serious, no-funny-business demeanor, John Wick: Chapter 2 honors another enduring element of Keaton’s work: slapstick.