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.
After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.
John Wick was overrated. Let’s just address that elephant in the room now; the movie was filled to the brim with stylish gun-fu action but failed to deliver on a spectacular third act or final truly chaotic sequence. It lost steam and ended up being merely a good addition to the action genre, although by modern-day standards definitely one great and worthy of being cherished.
So why are we talking about the original John Wick and the fact that this critic personally found it mediocre in his review a few years ago? Simple. Let it be known that it is not hyperbole when I claim that John Wick: Chapter 2 obliterates its predecessor and is one of the greatest American action films of the decade, and possibly of all time. Everyone that went crazy for the first movie will probably explode witnessing the insanity that this sequel provides. Cheering at the Chicago screening ensued for just about every kill, as if we were a rowdy bunch at the Super Bowl celebrating a Touchdown.
Let me put it this way: did the first John Wick contain a scene where the titular and tragically storied hitman (referred to by his associates and peers simply as The Boogeyman) had a brief outburst of violence stabbing fools straight to death with a f****** pencil? A F****** PENCIL!!!? I think not. It’s like director Chad Stahelski (who also directed the original flick and served as a stuntman for Keanu Reeves on The Matrix Trilogy) randomly decided to watch The Dark Knight prior to the beginning of production and then felt an urge to one-up The Joker’s infamous magic trick pencil kill. And that’s only about three of the deaths brought on by this harbinger of bloodshed throughout the 2 hours of mayhem, so you can only imagine how else his enemies creatively meet their demise. Three out of… I don’t know; the word count to this review is probably similar to the body count number in John Wick: Chapter 2.
Of course, all of the shootouts and John Woo inspired gun-play is once again choreographed pure, not relying on constant quick-cut editing that plagues most modern action films. John Wick: Chapter 2 actually features a number of unbroken shots depicting the vengeful master of close quarters combat racking up kill after kill, often times while in the middle of taking another generic baddie down MMA style. However, what’s a pleasant surprise is how visually striking many of the battlefield requirements are, ranging from underground Roman catacombs, to fancy museums full of expensive s*** to destroy in the crossfire, to a glass mirror hallway that slickly captures a one-on-one struggle between bitter rivals from numerous angles, including upside down. Much credit also has to go to the direction and fight choreographers for successfully being able to maintain a fresh sensation for most new kills, when most action films would have quickly devolved into repetitiveness that no longer gives viewers any reason to care about the characters and aftermath of each burst of brutality. Even as the movie approached two hours, we still hooted and hollered for every death.
Also appreciated is that John Wick: Chapter 2 isn’t just solely concerned with giving the supremely lethal death dealer another reason to go on a murderous rampage, but expanding upon the mythology of the universe created. That effort manages to make the film much more intriguing and also gives it a black comedy edge (What happens when fighting spills into a Continental hotel?). Along with these hotels from the original returning (hotels designed to allow hitmen a brief period of sanctuary and safety from conducting their business) are large coins known as Markers, which is essentially a materialistic form of a debt deal between hitmen. Without saying much, these Markers serve as the basis of the plot and give the universe another layer of originality. All of this does come at the expense of John Wick: Chapter 2 feeling less like a personal revenge story, but the character does still struggle with inner demons and finding an early retirement. Essentially, there is some give-and-take with plot priority.
Unexpectedly, the first 45 minutes or so of John Wick: Chapter 2 (save for one bombastic car chase at the beginning ) is clearly more focused on fleshing out the world and even the mindsets of the assassins that inhabit this seedy underworld of international contract killing. There’s even a montage of John Wick prepping for a mission, testing out various weapons and gadgets, including an awesome bulletproof dress suit. This certainly isn’t a bad thing, but one can’t help but feel the first act of the movie pales in excitement compared to the rest.
Basically, a certain plot point essentially propels the film into the complete nonstop action mode that fans of the ever-evolving franchise will come to expect, and my God does it absolutely deliver. The difference between both John Wick films is that one of them fizzles out by the final action sequence, while the other just ups the ante on stunts and carnage to maximum excitement. Once again, it also much more greatly utilizes aspects regarding the rules of assassin work, benefiting the violence. John Wick: Chapter 2 embraces the tropes, pacing, and style of 90s action film, winding up being a perfect example of what more action films should strive to achieve. Furthermore, as a sequel it improves and expands on the original in every conceivable way.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★