There was a moment when it seemed that the Russo Brothers were destined for great things.
That moment coincided with the resounding success of the last two Avengers , Infinity War and Endgame , which marked the culmination of an era in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, presenting themselves as a successful, engaging and at times touching and profound double ending.
Not bad, for two authors who came from comedy – they had directed Welcome to Collinwood and episodes of Arrested Development and Community – and who no one would have ever thought would settle so well in the big-budget fantastic action (recall that they also directedCaptain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War , two of the best MCU films ever). When they announced, after Avengers: Endgame , that they would be stepping away from Marvel to try original paths, the sky seemed to be the limit.
Unfortunately, then, that promise was only partially kept and whatever benefit of the doubt they still had at their disposal was gradually canceled in the face of generic works such as The Gray Man , the most classic of Netflix’s “copy-paste” action games, and Citadel , a successful, but no less “copy-and-paste” Prime Video series. Among the best things the Russos were able to conceive post- Avengers , however, was the first Tyler Rake , written by Joe Russo and directed by first-time directorial stuntman Sam Hargrave . The film was part of the new American action influenced by The Raid , that of John Wick(another saga directed by a former stuntman), to understand, and, without inventing anything, put a convinced Chris Hemsworth at the center of a plot as thin as it is essential, designed to serve a non-stop action barrage, between hand-to-hand, shootouts, chases and impressive (albeit fake) long shots. A well directed and very well packaged film, a cut above the generic action that Netflix usually spits out on a regular basis.
And now here we are talking about Tyler Rake 2 , an inevitable sequel (with an inevitable initial retcon , after all Tyler Rake was undeniably dead at the end of the first film) which repeats the same formula but which, this time, seems unable to keep this damned thing in check “desire for mediocrity” by the Russos. Joe Russo writes again, but, for some reason, what seemed essential here looks like banality. TylerRake 2it’s really the zero degree of film writing: the trauma of losing his son is dusted off and deepened to give more depth to the protagonist, and provide him with a clear reason to fight. But it is a truly obvious development, which, instead of delving into the hero’s character and making us feel more empathy towards him, ends up unmasking the thinness of a plot that has no sense of existing other than to hold together a series of spectacular set pieces in a vaguely coherent way. There’s Tyler Rake, there’s the new mission, there are the ruthless villains of the moment (this time some ugly Georgian thugs, always to remind us that the Cold War is back in force), the rest doesn’t count for anything, because it’s impossible feel empathy for these action figuresthat move in the middle of bombastic action scenes.
The good thing is that Tyler Rake 2 practically never stops and keeps its promise to entertain for two hours (including credits) without getting bored. An action sequence is practically immediately followed by another, even bigger, even bloodier. But it’s all stuff already seen in better films, from the aforementioned The Raid and John Wick to Atomic Blonde, done better and with fewer digital tricks to put a patch here and there. There’s even the inevitable sequence shot, which lasts twenty minutes flat and is made more with the spirit of someone stamping the clock than someone who wants to amaze you with something unheard of, also because this time it’s more than blatantly fake, a montage of heavily digitally retouched takes, with way too much CGI too obvious. It’s not said that having more money is necessarily an advantage, especially in cases like this, where the strength lies in the concreteness of the stunts. When the digital helicopters arrive and the protagonist blows them up with a machine gun from the roof of a moving train, in a scene where it is clearly seen that he is acting in front of a green screen,
That said, Sam Hargrave is talented, he knows how to put action and he has already shown it. Let’s hope he disengages from the Russos and finds a way out of him, as he’s likely to have a surprise or two in store for us in the future. Ah, clearly in the future the Russos have Tyler Rake 3 in store for us , given how this second chapter ends. Despite everything, Chris Hemsworth’s soft-hearted mercenary still deserves a second chance, as long as Joe Russo puts a little more effort into the writing or gives it to someone else with less ambition to look like a artificial intelligence that assembles stock situations from other action films.