John Wick: Chapter 2


With the release of John Wick, a marvellously stripped back revenge flick that saw Keanu Reeves slickly give dog lovers all over the world a tremendous sense of satisfaction, the actor successfully pulled off an unheard of action hat trick. Both Speed and The Matrix gave how action was staged a well aimed boot up the arse when needed and subsequently revitalised an entire genre – but with the second chapter of this bullet-to-the-face fable he’s pulled off something else he’s never managed before. While he wisely was a no-show for Speed 2 and the Matrix sequels were expensive looking gobbledegook, with John Wick Chapter 2, Keanu had nailed his first, truly great action sequel that not only ramps up the action significantly, but also rolls up its well-tailored sleeves to go balls-to-the-wall when it comes to some intriguing and flashy world building.
Beginning not long after the first movie ended, with the grieving, near-mythical assassin, John Wick finally getting vengence on a swathy looking Alfie Allen and seemingly half the criminal underworld for various indignities, Chapter 2 immediately gets down to business by pick up a hanging plot point by having John reclaim his stolen car – and then immediately total the thing by murdering lots of people with it. It’s a fantastic opening, a statement of intent if you will, that continues all the way to the end credits – you see, instead of this being another simple revenge story, JW2 tries to do something slightly different.


As news of his body count laden comeback spreads like wildfire, Santino Scamarcio, a figure from John Wick’s past, comes calling and wants John to repay a sizable marker, something the rather strict laws of the global hitman fraternity known as the High Table will not allow him to break. So after his refusal results in Santino nuking his house and then finding refuge in the Continental Hotel, it’s off to Rome for John to repay the favour and slaughter Santino’s sister in order for him to take her place at the High Table.
Whether John succeeds or fails, the fallout that comes with either result aren’t particularly enticing for our unkillable hero. His target has a dedicated security detail of her own in the form of Cassian, who will continue to tirelessly pursue Wick even if his employer takes a dirt nap and, in order to cover his tracks, Santino will also send out numerous, eccentric killers in order to avenge the very sister he leveraged John to kill.
Pretty soon Wick has a price on his head so big it could probably be seen from space as sharp suited kill machines spill out from ever nook and cranny that New York has to offer, so John has to not only utilise his formidable survival instincts in order to emerge in one piece, but he has to worm his way through every loophole and law this uber-complicated criminal world has to stay ahead of the numerous bullets whizzing his way.


It could have been so easy for director Chad Stahelski and screenwriter Derek Kolstad to simply redo the first movie with our bearded hero finding other reasons to seek out swift and brutal vengence aganminsr various wrong doers, but while there is a slight variation of that, the movie isn’t simply Keanu getting pissed that someone killed his goldfish, or his micro pig, or something.
The first movie was, in comparison, quite a low key action extravaganza that went high on style while simultaneously giving Reeves’ instantly iconic killer the constitution of a fucking Terminator, however, with Chapter 2, the filmmakers go full comic book as the ramifications of John breaking his retirement have massive ramifications.
The film starts all very John Wick as the movie stages what is essentially a fist fight, but with cars as were are choke slammed back into this violent world – but once the movie has given us all the expected shit, it flips the script by having our hero actually be hired for a mission that involves him giving us a deeper tour through this bizarrely complicated world. It’s this shifting of storytelling helps keep this sequel ahead of the game, making it feel like a genuine continuation of a story rather than a lazy rehash – a true Chapter 2, if you will. The welcome expansion to the world Wick works in means more scenes involving the free-zone hotel run by Ian McShane’s shady Winston, a foreign branch awesomely overseen by Franco Nero and an underground network of homeless run by the booming voice of Lawrence Fishburn’s Bowery King, which means that this rich, mysterious world could run and run.


Of course the faintly illogical rules of the way this criminal universe works often raises more questions than it actually answers, like what exactly is the citizen to hitman ratio of New York – something like 5 to 1 by my count? Just what is the value of those bloody coins that can seemingly buy you an entire arsenal or just one cup of coffee depending on what the script demands? And how many franchises did Ruby Rose pop up in in 2017 as her smirking, deaf bodyguard was only the latest of appearances which also included xXx and Resident Evil. However, thanks to the sheer style of the pieces that sees the action move from the clubs and warehouses of Chapter 1 yo dazzling art galleries and neon drenched airports, even the most the silliest of stuff utterly rules.
And then, of course, there’s the action. The long shots of Reeves intelligently cutting a swathe through armies of low lifes with a seamless mixture of Jujitsu and gun-fu are still present and correct but the style is far more confident. A wordless, nonchalant silenced, gun fight between Reeves and Common in a crowded area where no one is any wiser to the live and death battle raging around them is not only wickedly funny, but is fucking sublime to boot. Also stirring the action juices within is a sequence where Wick faces a string of colourful assassins and dispatches them with typically ruthless vigour (death by pencil, y’all!), but instead of seeing him run this gauntlet in a straight line, the movie ingeniously edits back and forth between them so they’re all occuring at once. As for the final set piece held in a art installation? It features Wick wreaking havoc in an art installation that features beautifully mirrored walls that invokes feelings of Bruce Lee whupping his arch enemy in the climax of Enter The Dragon. Stahelski used to be a stuntman – he knows his shit.

So what we have here is a superior action movie with big ideas, incredibly smart direction and a typically driven, central performance by it’s leading man in a role shrewdly tailor made for his particular talents. It’s a wonderfully over the top universe I’d practically foam at the mouth at to visit for a third go round with so much more still to be revealed. I’m gonna go as far to say that all the way up to it’s oddly moving, status quo demolishing climax, this fantastic Chapter 2 actually exceeds it’s predecessor, but only by a distance of nine millimetres…


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