Review: John Wick: Chapter 2
Warning: Just leave John Wick alone or all of your lives shall be forfeit. That is the message that should have been blasted across the gangster-hitman world these characters reside in John Wick: Chapter 2. None of them seem to understand how dangerous he is, and if they do, they constantly underestimate him, resulting in a gargantuan body count. The opening sequence ties into the first film, but never dwells on the past long, even when they repeat lines verbatim from it. The dog, the stolen car and, yes, the pencil are all checked off the list quickly and efficiently. This is all, in fact it, a well-played misdirect and a great step forward for this action saga.
For Chapter 2 we start off with a little more of the same: Wick, a proficient killer that just wants to fly straight, gets sucked back into the criminal underworld due to non-negotiable circumstances. When a mob boss shows up at his front door demanding Mr. Wick's services, he has no choice but to comply and unleash Hell in order to be ‘released’ from his Marker, the blood oath he holds over Wick. The mission sends him overseas to Rome where there is another hitman hotel named The Continental. This version of the hotel follows the same code and rules as the one established in New York, only Rome’s hotel manager is the legendary Franco Nero (Django, Enter The Ninja)! In a film loaded with good casting, having Franco play this part was an absolute stroke of genius and downright respectful to the veteran talent.
Only mentioned in the first film, Chapter 2 allows us to actually see Keanu go for another ‘Impossible Task’ — showing us the planning, the arming, and the smooth and tactical tailoring needed to pull it off. This is all the set-up needed for an amazing follow-up to one of the most solid action rides to ever come out North America. Fans of the first John Wick need not worry about the filmmakers dropping the ball. They up the stakes with this sequel, making tons, and I mean tons, of action films that came before it seem sloppy. All of the action sequences in Chapter 2 are needed and all are fully coherent.
There are very few cuts and the long takes of Keanu pulling off his surgical carnage is the stuff dreams are made of. He does damn near all of his own stunts from gunplay, knife work, stunt driving, and dishing out various forms of martial arts. Keanu Reeves looks 100% authentic in technique and execution, giving his all, as if this was his last film. Minus Knock Knock, the latter half of his career is loaded with great choices and the John Wick movies are no exception.
Amongst all of the brilliant violence is an undercurrent of humor that keeps the film from taking itself too seriously. They clearly want you to have fun and it is ok to burst out laughing during the intensity. Smart enough to reference without copying completely, I spotted The Warriors during Wick’s New York City gauntlet and Enter the Dragon’s use of mirrors during the film's finale. Well played homage for sure and I’m positive there is more hiding within that I missed and I can not wait to return with a fine toothed comb to see what other gems can be unearth. The color palette is once again gorgeous, with neon splashing across the frame and solid crisp whites contrasting and accentuating those colors.
John Wick 1 and 2 will go down as some of the finest American action films of all time because the filmmakers allow the action to be seen — not a hard concept really, just rarely applied to modern action nowadays. Our favorite "Baba Yaga" is back in full effect, ladies and gentlemen, and my anticipation for Chapter 3 is already through the roof. Oh, and as a professional courtesy, no dogs were hurt or killed this time around and there are no Marylin Manson tracks. Not a spoiler, by the way.