John Wick: Chapter 2
by Chase Whale
Director: Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Common, Ruby Rose, Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, Franco Nero (!!!)
How many sequels are better than the original?
Alien is a great movie; Aliens is far more entertaining. The Terminator is a great movie, but Terminator 2: Judgement Day is superior as far as legacy goes. And we can’t forget The Dark Knight, which forever changed how comic book adaptations will be made. More sequels bigger and more attractive than the brilliant original: The Empire Stricks Back, 22 Jump Street (Something Cooooool!), The Road Warrior, Evil Dead II -- the list goes on.
What I'm getting at is John Wick is an exhilarating 1969 Ford Mustang to take for a spin a whole lot, but John Wick: Chapter 2 is a raging bull that rams right through the first and keeps going. It doubles down on the action and violence, and man oh man, it’s fucking awesome.
John Wick 2 opens with John Wick (a dashing and always ready-for-a-fight Keanu Reeves) doing his thing in a warehouse where his beloved ‘stang is being held captive by Abram (Peter Stormare, who played the devil in Constantine opposite Reeves), Viggo Tarasov’s brother. Lots of goons die painfully, he gets his car, and the movie really starts to begin.
Wick gets at visit at his home by Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), someone from Wick's past that he owes a huge favor to for helping him get out of the killing business so he could live a normal life with his now deceased wife (Bridget Moynahan). Wick turns down the offer, he doesn't want the lifestyle, anymore, so Santino huffs and puffs, and blows Wick’s house down.
What’s he to do?
With advice from the Continental Manager and someone who cares deeply for Wick, Winston (the always stoic but frightening Ian McShane), Wick takes the job so he can be freed forever from this life of killing.
But you and I know it's not going to be that easy.
Once the job is done, Santino betrays Wick and puts an international bounty on his head for seven million dollars to any brave soul who wants to try and take Wick’s.
I’ll stop there because I don’t take pleasure in ruining all the fun, which is what John Wick 2 is packed tight with. It hits the gas full throttle, delivering some of the best-choreographed action scenes since The Raid 2 (Or, John Wick. Whichever released second in 2014, You can IMDb it for me and comment below.). John Wick collaborators Derek Kolstad (writer) and Chad Stahelski (director) do not disappoint on the action for the sequel. It’s just as slick as the first, only a hell of a lot more. And yes, Wick gets to use his infamous pencil kill, and it's glorious.
Despite all the righteous kills, John Wick 2 isn’t about how cool Wick makes killing his bad guys looks like as it does in part one; this is one element Stahelski made a smart move on, he knows we already know Wick is stylish. This film is about Wick's survival and trying to stay alive. In John Wick, he was invincible, and we are afraid of him. In John Wick 2, we see his weak, vulnerable side and fear his death. Wick is very disciplined natural born killer, but human, too. He makes mistakes that taints his reputation, and we see that he isn’t invisible and does have flaws.
At 52, Reeves still has a lot of bite in him. His fighting is energetic, swift, and clean, like a slick, well-orchestrated symphony. He makes kicking ass look kick-ass.
Stahelski learned his directing from the Wachowski sisters, as he served as a stunt double on all three Matrix movies. However, it’s clear he’s a meticulous filmmaker and pays more attention to detail than a lot of director’s working today. This works in his favor. Example: When Wick fights, we see him slow down on the speed of his bone-crunching kicks and punches because he’s exhausted. (It must not be easy killing one trained assassin after another, right in a row.) Wick isn’t made of steel; he’s going to tired after fighting one assassin after another. (And it’s quite humorous how he takes out a few.)
Stahelski’s sticks with the slick and jazzy for the whole movie (just like the first), from the set design, clothing, fights, and my personal favorite, one of the best parts of the movie that doesn’t involve bloodshed, how the communication gets to the assassins who to slaughter: women with Sailor Jerry tattoos use typewriters and a switchboard to talk with the other side, and use a timeworn computer to send out multiple texts on contracts to assassins. Swank's careful attention to detail will make this movie timeless. (A trick Stahelski undoubtedly picked up from the Wachowski's, as old school technology is heavily used in The Matrix series.)
John Wick 2 is old money for a new generation. An explosive, well-orchestrated action movie. We no longer need James Bond. Our new dressed to kill cinematic savior is John Wick.