‘JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2’ Review
John Wick: Chapter 2 begins a short time after the events of the first film, with John (Keanu Reeves) now retrieving his car that was stolen at the outset. This is merely an excuse for us to see John destroy nameless thugs, and that he does. One could argue that this entire film is exactly that, and one would be right. But John Wick is so much more than just a living weapon of few words — he’s a tragic figure who has suffered deeply and can’t escape his past, with pain and frustration behind his eyes. All that he has is all that he is now, a lost soul with no purpose. After the first film, it would seem that he may be able to find a little peace now, but to quote Westworld (or Romeo and Juliet): these violent delights have violent ends. Peace is nowhere to be found in John’s future.
After John Wick left the safety of retirement for some well deserved revenge, an old acquaintance Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up with an unpaid debt which he asks to have fulfilled in a very unsubtle way. The job? To kill D’Antonio’s sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini) which will allow him to take over a major portion of the criminal underground in New York. One of the few stipulations with Winston’s (Ian McShane) assassin society is that an offer cannot be refused, and so John proceeds with his reluctant final mission. Seconds after completion, John is spotted by an old colleague Cassian (Common) who was Gianna’s bodyguard. What unfolds after this is a practically unending onslaught and pursuit that will result in John’s toughest challenge and will change his life forever.
Writer Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski (co-director for the first film) return with a sequel that gives you EXACTLY what you wanted to see in a way few sequels do. The movie is a blast of ridiculous violence, memorable set pieces, humor, drama, mean glares, and scenery chewing for 122 minutes. It’s breathtaking. What I liked most about the first movie is how even the tiniest characters are memorable, and this one is no exception.
-Scamarcio is a conniving, slithery, creepy heavy!
-Common stares hard and gets two fantastic fight sequences!
-Femme fatale Ruby Rose is a mute killer who says a lot with no words!
-Laurence Fishburne effortlessly walks the line between friend and foe!
-…and Peter Stormare does more with a glorified cameo than most villains do in an entire film!
And oh, Keanu! Keanu is just killing this role the entire time, AGAIN. He hits every note here, from the somber to the stoic to the angry to the sarcastic. This character is the pinnacle of his career, and I could watch him do this another 10 times and not bat an eye at it. He is all that is man, all that is cool, all that is badass. He’s James Bond who says a lot less and does a lot more. Really, really well.
One of the major highlights on the first movie is the assault on the night club centerpiece, which is a perfectly executed masterclass of modern action cinema. The creative duo managed to give you at least two sequences that top that one: the opening where a destructive car chase devolves into a hand-to-hand brawl, and a 20-minute bloodbath with four unique weapons that sprawls from a concert to catacombs to the streets of Rome and finishes in a hotel lobby. That second one has about a five minute break before it becomes ANOTHER thrilling onslaught. Aside from The Raid 2, there isn’t another action movie in the past 10 years that has delivered this quantity and quality of sheer thrill. The finale that heavily tips it’s hat to Enter the Dragon is a lot of fun as well.
The resolution of John Wick: Chapter 2 makes what was announced a while back make a lot of sense: they were already in pre-production on a 3rd chapter before they were even done with the 2nd. That’s because this is a cliffhanger of sorts that leaves John in limbo and his future full of turmoil. It’s the one bittersweet moment once the credits roll that, while not as much of a “fuck you” as The Matrix: Reloaded, leaves you wanting more. Unlike that conclusion the Wachowski’s gave us, I have very little doubt that this one will deliver 100%. That 3rd chapter doesn’t have an official announcement yet, but 2019 seems like a safe bet. In the meantime I’ll watch this on many, many occasions. The first movie was a solid watch for me, but it was it repeat viewings that I really discovered how great it was. John Wick: Chapter 2? This one was an instant love affair. There will likely be no better action movie this year, and at the very least nothing anywhere near as crowd pleasing, spectacularly violent, and gleefully anarchic. See it now. Highest recommendation possible.
A sequel that is equal to, if not superior to, it's fantastic first volume. Ultra-violent, full of humor, and as cool as an action movie can be.
The story is a tad light in the middle, and has an ending that doesn't so much end things as open them up for more.