John Wick: Chapter 2
In 2014, Keanu Reeves’ comeback movie, John Wick, came as a complete surprise. This was the moment when American action started to catch up with what Chinese and South Korean cinema had been doing for years. Unfortunately we took the wrong page out of the Bourne and Taken films and decided to make our action sequences completely incoherent. So here walked in a couple of first-time directors (and former stuntmen) to show us how it’s done. Long takes, wide angles, and an actor willing and able to do his own stunts. Not only did it have spectacular action sequences, the script by Derek Kolstad is equally effective. He’s built a world for these films that feels lived in and is a concept we haven’t seen before. You come to these films for the action, but you stay for the world they’ve built.
While the first film was a slow build up to showing us what Wick was actually capable of, Chapter 2 basks in the glory of his “particular set of skills.” This film starts of with an outstanding action sequence, full of impressive stunts and tight choreography, and doesn’t stop until the credits roll. Director Chad Stahelski has a real knack for telling a good story mostly through action, keeping the exposition light, but the scenes where Wick isn’t plowing through a room of thugs are just as interesting. It helps that you are hosted to a bevy of great actors like Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, Peter Stormare, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Franco Nero, Peter Serafinowicz, and an especially solid turn by Common. A real stand out in Chapter 2 was the film’s main villain played by Riccardo Scamarcio. The moment he comes into the film, you are at unease, you know this guy spells trouble. Scamarcio plays the part with a perfect amount of sleaze, ego, and intelligence. Only two films in but the villains so far have been fantastic, with Michael Nyqvist giving (IMO) his best performance in the original.
John Wick is a perfect role for Keanu Reeves and has become the actor’s best character. You could always see a little Bill & Ted in the actor whether he was in films like The Matrix or Speed, but that disappears here. He’s calm, only speaks when necessary, able to say a lot without speaking a word. It’s truly hard to imagine any other actor embodying the title character as well as Reeves does. If John Wick got people looking at Keanu Reeves again, then Chapter 2 is a full-on comeback. The action is impeccable and new; the story is simple, funny, and fresh; the characters are mysterious, yet three-dimensional.
I have to admit that while I do love these movies, they are basically tailor-made for me. I love a great action movie that doesn’t skimp on interesting characters. I like my action heroes well-dressed (a la James Bond or The Transporter). I love my muscle cars like the ’69 Mustang or the ’70 Chevelle Wick drives throughout the films. I like the world building, mystery, and the visual storytelling that comes with these films as well. I have heard some people say that Chapter 2 is “more of the same,” but in this case I beg to differ. While yes, it’s an all-out action flick in the same vein the first one was, but it does what every good sequel should do. Chapter 2 gives you the great action sequences you expect while also expanding and building upon what was teased in the first film. If I had one nitpick with this movie it’s that I didn’t want it to end. The way this one does end, I cannot wait until the third chapter… it would be nice to get it in the next month or so.
Rating: R – strong violence throughout, some language and brief nudity
Runtime: 2 hours, 2 minutes