John Wick Chapter 2 Review: A Symphony of Brutality
Back in 2014, a surprise hit action movie came out that took action movie lovers by storm. Made for a modest $20 million, John Wick raked in a little more than four times that in the box office. It was a movie that reminded us that Keanu Reeves can definitely kick a ton of ass, and filled a hole in our action movie loving hearts that we didn’t know existed. Hell, I even ranked it as number 1 on my top ten list of assassin movies! And ever since there was news of a sequel, I have been on pins and needles in anticipation for it; and now that the movie is out, let’s see if it lived up to the hype!
Picking up almost right where the last film leaves off, we see John Wick fighting through a warehouse of more Russian henchman to get his car back and tie up loose ends from the previous film. And this sets the tone for the film – again, it’s balls to the wall action that is highly stylized and brutal. And it never goes overboard to make you think that you’re watching an action movie trying to be a comic book. It skirts the line of believe-ability while never taking its foot off the gas.
As for the story, I won’t get into it too much, except to say that the film’s premise hinges on a debt John Wick has to pay. What I will go into, though, is that the film does do quite a bit of world building that is intriguing. You get to see more of the society that Wick operates in and how it all functions, which you only got to see a little bit of in the first installment. It was definitely cool to explore the “aristocracy”, so to speak, of this secret society. Returning writer Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski do a great job of using that exploration to further the exposition and action together, keeping that story’s pace nice and tight.
One thing I also enjoyed was the way they framed the action. Lots of long cuts and wide shots, allowing you to see what’s going and see that, yes, Keanu Reeves and doing pretty much everything himself! They continue the very cool apsect of using Aikido, Judo and Ju Jitsu for the fight choreography, but I initially thought there were a couple of times where I felt that certain moves – like a flying arm-bar – were done more because it’s a cool move that fight fans will recognize, as opposed to it being a necessary move to the situation. But after a second viewing, I saw that everything in the choreography works in a practical way – even if the evidence for it is more subtle than what you’re used to seeing.
The cast, here, is great! Keanu is still the angry, silent killer. I’m still amazed that at 52, he’s out kicking more ass than most action stars out there today! Returning from the first film is Ian McShane as Winston, manager of the Continental in New York, and Lance Reddick as Charon, the concierge. While both have more to do in this film, it’s McShane that has the meatier part to contribute to the story, and it’s definitely intriguing!
New to the world of John Wick is Common as the assassin/bodyguard Cassian, and Ruby Rose as another assassin/bodyguard named Ares.While Common does well here, it’s a bit unfortunate to say that he doesn’t do anything different from his other turn-outs as assassins in Smokin Aces and Run All Night. Still, he’s a blast to watch going toe to toe with Reeves’ Wick. Also, Ruby Rose is great as the mute bodyguard for one of the aristocratic string-pullers of this film’s story. She spends much of the film in a kind of taunting cat and mouse game with Wick, which is fun to watch. But the best part is seeing her go hand to hand, showing a dexterity I didn’t exactly expect from her. And last, but certainly not least, is Laurence Fishburne, who plays a kind of kingpin to a different underworld of assassins, as The Bowery King. He looks to be having a blast every time he’s on-screen, which helps to make his part quite memorable – even if it is a bit shorter than expected.
All in all, this a ton of fun and a near perfect sequel to a movie that no one really expected to be as successful as it was. This is a rare sequel that does nearly everything right and makes you wanting to see the inevitable third, and probably, last chapter. So go see John Wick Chapter 2, or the Baba Yaga will get you!
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