John Wick: Chapter 2 Review
Consider This a Professional Courtesy
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) retrieves his beloved car, even though it’s barely in one piece, at the beginning of John Wick: Chapter 2 and he has every intention of fading back into retirement since he accomplished everything he intended to and then some since the events of the first film. A man from John’s past named Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up on John’s doorstep speaking of a blood oath that John took in order to quit the business. Now Santino wants John to pay up in the form of him assassinating his sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini). Gianna was gifted a seat at a committee of elite crime lords known as the “High Table” from their father before he died; a position Santino believes is rightfully his. Bound by blood, John reluctantly agrees but a large bounty is soon put on his head because of it.
John Wick would have been the best action film of 2014 if not for The Raid 2. A vengeful Keanu Reeves firing bloody and chunky headshots left and right with ridiculous accuracy is something the world didn’t know it needed and yet here we are two and a half years later and John Wick has basically become a franchise. According to IMDb, John Wick is meant to be a trilogy. A John Wick trilogy is an exciting thought, but Taken is a similar film franchise that began with a solid introduction, reignited the leading man’s career, but became less and less relevant and more and more disappointing with each sequel. John Wick: Chapter 2 is satisfying in several ways, but the formula for the neo-noir action thriller sequel may already be running in circles and showing signs of staleness.
If John Wick is known as being this unstoppable boogeyman that can sneak around and annihilate a gargantuan entourage of thugs and massacre an entire goon platoon with little to no effort, then why do all of these guys rush in to be killed so quickly? Nearly every person that comes into frame with a gun drawn or a knife firmly in the stabbing position is essentially a lamb leading itself to slaughter because nobody stands a chance against this guy. The numbers game is what makes the film entertaining. How would John Wick take out a gang of 20 disposable assassins? Or 50? Or 100? John emerges victorious over insane odds every time he picks up a gun and usually only has cosmetic damage like scratches on his face or a deep cut to his abdomen that somehow only makes things cooler.
The film seems to be pieced together awkwardly, especially when it comes to certain characters. The fight John has with Cassian (Common), Gianna’s chief bodyguard, is evenly matched and lasts longer than any other battle John has with any other individual throughout either film. While that feud has an incredibly rewarding conclusion, you can’t help but think the film should have made a bigger deal about Cassian rather than elevating Ares (Ruby Rose), a mute assassin that works for Santino, to unrealistic heights. The inevitable fight sequence between John and Ares is hyped up so much over the course of the film, but it ends so quickly in the long run. As a major henchman, Ares should have put up more of a fight by default and yet Cassian got more screen time, better fight scenes, and even had the chance to catch a breather and share a drink with Keanu Reeves on screen.
All of this makes it sound like John Wick: Chapter 2 has pissed away whatever you found great about the original film, but that’s not the case. What’s interesting is that Chapter 2 opens with John getting his car back which is this heart racing chase around New York City, but a good 30-40 minutes after that the sequel is planting the seeds for a final hour full of nothing but blood-filled, hard hitting, and explosive action. There’s a lot of downtime between bone crushing fights and flesh piercing gun wars, but it’s teasing what lies ahead. Witnessing John strategically place guns around the catacombs allows you to drool over the possibilities of what lies waiting just around the corner. Observing John suit up with state of the art weapons and armor technology makes you giddy at the damage and fatalities that are soon to come.
The way the film adds class to something so deadly combined with those involved honoring manners and The Sommelier (played by Peter Serafinowicz) gun sequence being presented as if John was picking out a suitable bottle of wine for his evening plans makes everything feel so much like Kingsman: The Secret Service. This may seem a little odd since Kingsman is set to get a sequel entitled The Golden Circle coming out later this year. It’s peculiar to have so many mixed emotions about a sequel that is nearly one hundred percent worthwhile. In the first film, you were so focused on John coping with losing his wife and the sad way the film presented his dog dying that you were taken aback by how delightfully violent it turned out to be. When a sequel has you thinking more about other films rather than the franchise you’re currently focused on, then it seems as though potential sequels may be in trouble of treading the same ground rather than pursuing new territory.
The action featured in the sequel is ridiculously amazing. The first thing you’ll notice is how far back the camera is during John’s ass-kicking sequences. This allows so much room to breathe as John kicks more than the appropriate amount of ass over the course of two hours. We’ve become so used to camera work being so zoomed in and up close in an attempt to feel more raw and realistic, but John Wick: Chapter 2 kicks that rule to the curb and fills it with bullet holes as John wrestles with a guy on the ground, forces that man to shoot another in the head on the far left or far right of the screen, shoots another coming around on the corner as he stands up, and blows the brains out of the man on the ground before tossing an empty clip that slides across the floor to the other side of the screen.
Everything from the brawl at the concert to the standoff with Cassian to the nonstop bloodshed in the catacombs to the Santino chase through the art gallery that culminates in the Enter the Dragon inspired Reflections of the Soul exhibit are all sequences completely overflowing with full throttle action. John Wick: Chapter 2 effectively erases how memorable the magic trick that The Joker did in The Dark Knight and raises the standard for memorable sequences with a pencil.
There is a lot of doubt that John Wick can continue to stay fresh for the course of a trilogy, especially since story points seemed so predictable in this sequel. Nevertheless, no one can argue that John Wick is back! Bloodier, deadlier, and more awesome than ever! John Wick: Chapter 2 nearly doubles the kill count the first film had and its white knuckled, fast-paced action knows how to dropkick your adrenaline into overdrive.