‘John Wick: Chapter 2’: Adrenaline Pumping Sequel | Film Review
In a modern cinematic landscape of superheroes, franchises and action films looking for the sweet PG-13 spot 2014’s John Wick was a rarity in Hollywood – an unabashed hard-R vengeance story that showed that there is a demand for this type of film. It’s sequel continued to be gleeful fun.
Picking up where the first film left off John Wick (Keanu Reeves) take on a Russian Mafia stronghold to receive his car and retire in peace, restabilising the fact John Wick is a badass.
Unfortunately just as John Wick gets back home a man from his past, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarico) claims a blood debt and if John refuses his life would be forfeit. Under duress, John has to go to Rome to assassin a leading Mafia boss (Claudia Gerini) during her coronation to becoming a member of the High Table.
The first John Wick pulled off a marvellous trick by being emotionally sincere whilst also having its tongue firmly in cheek. Writer Derek Kolstad created an elaborate underground world of rules and currency whilst stunt coordinators-turned-directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch supplied some terrific shoot outs and fist fights. Leitch has left to direct Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2 but Stahelski and Kolstad manage the story and plan to conclude the trilogy.
John Wick: Chapter 2 continues the delightful mix of emotion and seriousness, light-heartiness and violence. Like the first film, John Wick acts a reluctant hero, a man who wants to get out the criminal world and gets forced back in. In the first film, John Wick was getting revenge for his puppy, in the sequel it is through obligation.
John Wick: Chapter 2 continues with the idea that John Wick is torn between wanting to leave his life of violence whilst the people around him saying that he enjoys it but the film actually acts like a continuation of the first film and not a retread.
Kolstad and Stahelski expanded on the world created in the first film by adding the idea of the Marker – the blood debt that anyone who agrees to it has to fulfil, adding an international dimension to the world and showing more of the inner workings of the assassin’s underworld. It is a sequel that is justified in its existence.
Both John Wick movies were action films from a different era – the ’80s and ’90s and that is the series’ greatest strength. Because of Stahelski’s experience in the action genre the action scenes are brilliant, a great combination of gun and fist fights with John Wick being able to cater for any eventuality.
Although John Wick is the man that no one in their right mind should mess with, he is shown getting hurt in his fights: he gets run over, stabbed and shot and these injuries take their toll on the assassin. He bleeds and limps and this makes his victory even greater. There are consequences because of the violence.
John Wick: Chapter 2 was also delightfully cathartic as people are shot, stabbed and punched. My own vocabulary devolved to ‘aww’ and ‘ooo’ when seeing the unrelenting violence: one particular highlight was when John Wick stabbed a bodyguard in the genitals and blood come gushing out.
Stahelski also knew that audiences are sick and tired of shaky cam and quick cut editing and used long takes and steady cam shots instead. This type of action is influenced more by Hong Kong action films than Hollywood ones. There was a great flow to the fight and shootout and the action does last for a good portion of the film.
The action highlight was the sequence in Rome where after John Wick performs his assassin he gets chased from a mass of guards and assassins and ends with a big fight against Common. But this sequence was ruined when John Wick was in the catacombs because it was so dimly light. Still I would take this type of action over the fights and chases that Paul Greengrass gives us.
John Wick: Chapter 2 also kept the wit of the first film with John Leguizamo and Lance Beddick providing a few chuckles because of their deadpan delivery. The film also embraced it absurdity by making Santino’s main henchwoman a deaf-mute.
There are also serious and dramatic moments particularly when John Wick confronts the woman he is meant to assassinate. Although there are high stakes for John and there is a constant sense of peril, the sequel knew what its primary goal was: be fun.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a film made by action junkies for action junkies and fans of the original film will love the sequel. The John Wick series is the closest Hollywood can come to making a film like John Woo’s Hong Kong movies and The Raid series. Hopefully, the third film will be a fitting conclusion to the trilogy.
Blu-ray Special Features: The Blu-ray comes with a wide variety of behind of featurettes, from the stars talking about the impact of the first film on the action genre, the training that Keanu Reeves and the rest cast had to undergo and Reeves and director Chad Stahelski talk about their working relationship. There are also plenty of deleted scenes.
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