John Wick: Chapter 2 Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 movie posterSynopsis
After seeing John Wick (Keanu Reeves) come out of retirement, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) returns to John to collect a debt. When Wick fulfills his contract, D’Antonio puts a bounty on his head. Wick must use all of his resources to get through the assassins between him and D’Antonio in order to get justice for D’Antonio’s betrayal.

Review
I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical about a sequel to John Wick, a surprise hit from 2014. I felt the story wrapped up well and didn’t really need a follow-up. I was afraid that we would get too much of a good thing and an awesome character like John Wick would be run into the ground trying to squeeze as much money out of him as the studio possibly could. After the film was done I took a sigh of relief, John Wick: Chapter 2 is not the cash-in I was scared it would be.

One pitfall that many sequels fall into, particularly an action sequel such as this, is that it tries to make it as similar as the film(s) before as possible. In doing so, it does not bring anything new to the franchise and feels stale. John Wick: Chapter 2 keeps the core of John Wick but at the same time, brings a fresh new experience. It does everything a sequel should: raise the stakes, flesh out the character, and expand the franchise’s universe. There are clear similarities, as there should be, but this is not a carbon copy of the last movie. This feels like a whole new experience instead of a simple rehash of the last film.

On that note, this movie also feels like a natural progression of John Wick’s story. The opening action-packed scene cleans up the threads from last film then jumps right into the new stuff. We learn more about Wick’s character, his past, and the assassin world.

Oh my goodness do we learn about the secret assassin world! One of my favorite parts about John Wick was the Continental Hotel and learning about this underground society of assassins that has their own sanctuary, currency, and code of conduct. That film only touches the tip of the assassin iceberg. This film greatly expands on that. A ton of cool and interesting information is revealed and I don’t want to give any of it away, I want you to learn it for yourself. Even though a lot of information is revealed, there is clearly much more to the secret society yet to be given.

Another great aspect from John Wick that I enjoyed very much was the choreography during the action scenes. They were vibrant and exciting. That same energy returns but larger and with more intensity. Director Chad Stahelski has a history as a stuntman and stunt coordinator. Using his experience, the action sequences are very crisp and well choreographed. The series’ signature “gun-fu” style of action is exhilarating to watch.

I mentioned in my review of John Wick that I really enjoyed Stahelski’s directing because unlike most modern action movies, it didn’t use much shaky-cam. Instead, it felt like classic 1980s action movies with long shots, maintaining a focus on the action going on on-screen. John Wick: Chapter 2, to no surprise, does the same thing. Even when in tight spaces, such as catacomb tunnels or a subway station, the camera still manages to keep all the important characters and action in focus. This leads to some of the best action cinematography I’ve seen in a while. Even during the non-action scenes, sweeping shots and vibrant colors make for a unique, visceral experience.

The standout performance from the last film was Keanu Reeves as the titular character. He easily brought Wick’s incredible skills to life but still felt vulnerable as the aged hitman. He brings back that same vulnerability and it still works. Common, Riccardo Scamarcio, and Ruby Rose do a great job as Wick’s antagonists, feeling like much more of a challenge to Wick than the Russian mobsters of the last film. The reunion of Neo and Morpheus with the appearance of Lawrence Fishburne was fun to watch. I expected a bigger role for Fishburne, which was more of a cameo than a significant role. Hopefully he will have a bigger role in the future. Maybe they’ll even bring in Carrie-Anne Moss for a reunion of The Matrix.

I thought John Wick: Chapter 2 was GREAT 😀 It does everything expected of a sequel, creating bigger challenges for John Wick and building his character. Chad Stahelski proves he has a real knack for action scenes, using spectacular cinematography to create some of the best action scenes in recent memory. I went into this movie unsure if I wanted a second John Wick film but I left greatly looking forward to a third.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Chad Stahelski – Director
Derek Kolstad – Writer
Tyler Bates – Composer
Joel J. Richard – Composer

Keanu Reeves – John Wick
Riccardo Scamarcio – Santino D’Antonio
Ian McShane – Winston
Ruby Rose – Ares
Common – Cassian
Claudia Gerini – Gianna D’Antonio
Lance Reddick – Charon
Laurence Fishburn – Bowery King
Tobias Segal – Earl
John Leguizamo – Aurelio
Thomas Sadoski – Jimmy
Peter Serafinowicz – Sommelier
Luca Mosca – Italian Tailor
Peter Stormare – Abram

John Wick Review

John Wick movie posterSynopsis
Retired hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) goes after his former boss, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), after Viggo’s son, Iosef (Alfie Allen), steals his car and kills his dog.

Review
I haven’t seen a new Keanu Reeves movie in quite some time (I missed last year’s 47 Ronin), so it was good to see him back on screen. I’ll admit I was mildly surprised how much I enjoyed John Wick. I had only seen the trailer recently, but it looked intriguing. John Wick provides plenty of action but it also isn’t afraid to have some fun along the way.

Pacing in an action movie can be difficult to pull off. One of my favorite aspects about John Wick is that there is constant action. Every few minutes there is another action scene. However, It never becomes too over-the-top, but at the same time, it doesn’t really slow down. There was just enough character development to keep me interested in John Wick, but that never took away from the action.

The camera work is better than most action films nowadays, too. It doesn’t cut away very often, allowing for the entire fight to be seen without getting disoriented. There was one scene in particular that takes place inside a dance club where it does cut away quite a bit. Usually this is a problem for me but I actually didn’t mind it too much here because it added to the scene. The choreography was pretty good, too. There are a few times I think it borders on the ridiculous and it reminded me of an 80s action movie, which added to my enjoyment, never detracting from it.

When John Wick is introduced, he is already in retirement and throughout the movie there are no flashbacks about his time as a hitman. There is some exposition (mostly by Michael Nyqvist’s Viggo) to learn about his past. But despite not seeing him be a bad-ass hitman in the past, it is established early on that he was.  Everyone was scared by simply hearing his name (look at the quote below, which happens in the within the first few minutes of the movie, to get an idea). Also, everyone seems to know him which makes for some pretty funny interactions.

Despite John Wick being an action movie, it never takes itself too seriouslyand was actually fairly whimsical. It throws in some good one-liners and the aforementioned character interaction were pretty humorous.

John Wick is more than a generic action movie. It provides plenty of action and great choreography without becoming too outrageous and even throws in a few good laughs. It’s great to see an action movie that doesn’t take itself seriously, allowing it to have fun, making it more enjoyable overall.

PS, John Wick’s dog in the beginning is absolutely the cutest dog I have ever seen in a film.

Rating
4/5

Also check out my review of the sequel, John Wick: Chapter 2.

Favorite Quote
Aureilo: [picks up phone] Aureilo speaking.
Viggo: I heard you struck my son.
Aureilo: Yes sir, I did.
Viggo: And may I ask why?
Aureilo: Yea, well, because he stole John Wick’s car, sir, and, uh, killed his dog.
Viggo: Oh. [Hangs up phone]

Trailer

Cast & Crew
David Leitch – Director
Chad Stahelski – Director
Derek Kolstad – Screenplay
Tyler Bates – Original Music
Joel J. Richard – Composer

Keanu Reeves – John Wick
Michael Nyqvist – Viggo Tarasov
Alfie Allen – Iosef Tarasov
William Dafoe – Marcus
Dean Winters – Avi
Adrianne Palicki – Ms. Perkins
Omer Barnea – Gregori
Toby Leonard Moore – Victor
Daniel Bernhardt – Kirill
Ian McShane – Winston
Lance Reddick – Hotel Manager
Bridget Moynahan – Helen
John Leguizamo – Aureilo
Clarke Peters – Harry