John Wick: Chapter 2, 2017.
Directed by Chad Stahelski.
Starring:Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini, Lance Reddick, Tobias Segal, Ian McShane, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, Peter Stormare, Laurence Fishburne, and Franco Nero.
John Wick returns to the underworld to pay off a debt but soon discovers a large bounty has been put on his head.
The film opens with a projection on a small apartment building of the pioneer of cinematic stunt work Buster Keston. The cinephile’s in the audience will glee at this footage only to be interrupted by a speeding motorbike pursued by an unknown assailant in a sub-par car (you can guess who is in that car). Wasting no time the audience are treated to an impressive car chase through the wet soaked cityscape, ending in a warehouse as our titular antihero tears through a series of henchmen and, for lack of a better word, bodies to retrieve his stolen Mustang. This is what people came to see, and this is what they shall receive from the opening act; minimal dialogue, no expository voiceover recapping the events of the last film. Just unprecedented carnage.
Much like its predecessor, John Wick: Chapter 2 continues its world building aesthetics in adding further layers to this interconnected underworld of assassins. John Wick (Keanu Reeves) thought he finally got out; he exacted revenge on those who killed his puppy from the last film, and in this film, he retrieves a severely beaten down car. Members of this secret society appear to have other ideas. Wick took a blood oath when he first joined the underworld, and according to the rules, Italian crime load Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) can still exert his control over him. John Wick is brought back again to assassinate D’Antonio’s sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini). Begrudgingly he begins to carry out the assassination. I shan’t tell you any more than that as much of the enjoyment comes from the plot twists and the films intent on upping the ante. It increasingly veers towards a WWE Royal Rumble-style of carnage, only with guns!
The film’s body count increases to umpteen-stupid-fold for all the right reasons. Director Chad Stahelski and screenwriter Derek Kolstad hold tight to the facets that made the first John Wick a thrill – the fight sequences are choreographed to a ballet-level of macabre beauty. Stahelski keeps many of Wicks kills within the frame as one suspends one’s disbelief to revel in the physicality of Reeves performance. All the talk of Reeves intense training schedule (8 hours a day car/gun/combat training plus gym workout) is fully realised on-screen. Stahelski and cinematographer Dan Laustsen smoothly follow Wick’s carnage from scene-to-scene, almost verbatim to the first film.
John Wick’s motivation in this first film was visceral, and wholly a revenge film. Puppy dead, car stolen, let’s kick some ass! In Chapter 2 there has been an upgrade in the plot department. Wick’s motivation is a little more complex, or rather, a lot less simple than the first film. Revenge still at the forefront, albeit with layers.
Most surprising was the heavy emphasis on humour. Cassian (Common) is another assassin-cum-bodyguard who is also part fond of John Wick and part-not fond of John Wick. The two brawl on the streets in a scene that is eerily reminiscent of Peter Griffin vs The Chicken from the early Family Guy series. Reeves and Common slug each other in a seemingly never-ending brawl that begins with an action heavy score only to purposefully descend to non-diegetic music. It becomes intentionally funnier and more violent.
John Wick: Chapter 2 hails some great action set pieces and is a firm reminder that you can film action with static camera angles, minimal edits, and full onscreen violence. Very little shaky cam here, with just an onslaught of head shots and dead bodies. You saw John Wick, now watch him do it again!
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★