John Wick: Chapter 2. A Review.
John Wick burst onto the scene in 2014 and was a pleasant suprise to action movie fans everywhere. Looking back, it should not have been as big a surprise, Keanu Reeves is one of the most bankable action movie stars in the world and he was teaming up with two of his stuntmen from the Matrix. John Wick had a simple conceit, lots of high quality and well choreographed action sequences, a high body count with plenty of visceral bloodshed and a plot that would not get in the way of the former two. Revenge was the motivating factor and John Wick is pretty good at getting what he wants, between the head shots and broken arms we were dipped into what seemed like a fully fleshed out world of underground assassins that we were only getting a glimpse at from behind a curtain. Chapter 2 of the John Wick saga sets out to give you more of what you liked about the first movie while dropping you a bit further into the underground high level crime world, a world that is becomming less and less "underground" by the minute.
The story picks up shortly after where the first left off. If you remember chapter one, part of the events that set Mr. Wick onto his revenge tour 2014 was his car being stolen. He still wants his car back and he goes and gets it in one of the coolest action sequences ever put onto screen. When Wick snuck up behind an unsuspecting guard and smashed his lit cigar down his throat I did not laugh, I let out a shriek of joy. When Wick drove his beloved mustang out of the garage and got about 15 feet of air and followed that with a power slide on the wet pavement I started laughing at the sheer coolness of what I just saw. After dispatching what felt like the entire body count from the first movie using mostly a car that at this point is busted to bits and his bare hands, when John Wick walks up to Peter Stormare's character (the brother of the villain from the first movie) and tells him that he is taking his car back, I knew John Wick Chapter 2 would not disappoint.
I wont reveal if Peter Stormare makes it out of the first scene alive but he is just the beginning of a cast that has been greatly expanded. We will get to Keanu later but there are more than a few returning characters. Johnny Leggs, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and even the cop (Thomas Sadoski) and the cleaner (David Patrick Kelly) make return appearances and all fit in well. The expansion of the cast basically doubles the cast and sports some big names. Riccardo Scamarcio plays John Wick's main opposition in the second chapter, and while not as despicable as Alfie Allen was in the first movie, his motivations are much more interesting. Peter Serafinowicz, Franco Nero, and even a reunion with Laurence Fishburne are the highlights of the new characters, while there are some I have trouble with. I don't know who came up with the idea of making Ruby Rose's character def but they are a genius. I have not seen her in much, but when I have seen her she has been incredibly disappointing. Taking away her spoken lines and replacing them with sign language and that signature awesome subtitles (Yes even the subtitles in John Wick are cool.) solves about 60 percent of her problems as an actor, brilliant. Common also joins the cast as Cassian, a bodyguard for a target of John Wick's. There is supposed to be this previous relationship between Wick and Cassian but the two actors don't seem to connect well. I have never really liked Common as an actor and while I struggled to enjoy his connection with Reeves in this movie, his character is needed as John Wick really could use someone to actually give him a challenge once and a while.
Chad Stahelski has been working in Hollywood for decades, and has been with Keanu Reeves almost since the beginning. Stahelski's first credit is as Reeves' stunt double in Point Break. A few years later he was used to double Brandon Lee in re shoots of The Crow after Lee was famously accidentally killed while shooting the movie. Stahelski has been working steadily since providing stunts for movies such as Escape from L.A., Spider-Man 2 and working as either stunt coordinator or fight choreographer for movies like Beerfest, The Hunger Games and 300. He has also been a second unit director since 2009, working on movies like the first 2 Hunger Games movies and Captain America: Civil War. What I'm trying to get at is this guy is more than experienced and has absolutely used all that experience in his first two features. He has accomplished some of the best fight scenes ever filmed in these two movies and this is due to small things like attention to blood splatter and fluid camera work. The Raid(2011) and its sequel (2014) are the only other recent martial arts movies that even hold a candle to John Wick and its sequel, but John Wick has something The Raid does not. Keanu Reeves.
John Wick is a character that is actually pretty similar to the movies he appears in. Quiet and cool but also violent and tactile. Keanu Reeves is not only the perfect person to play this character but he may be the only one who could. Between the extreme amount of gun training, martial arts training and choreography training that Reeves is able to make look like a walk in the park, he may be the greatest true action movie star in history. Others like Tom Cruse and Bruce Willis have dipped into the genre, but Reeves has stayed there and carved out a home for himself. He gets shit for not being a great classically trained actor, but he may be the coolest guy ever with a gun n his hand or behind the wheel of a fast car. Reeves elevates not only the character of John Wick but the franchise itself. Without spoiling too much, we will be getting a third installment, and while I was iffy about this sequel, I was completely proven wrong and now openly approve of any future movies, as long as Reeves and Stahelski are attached. John Wick: Chapter 2 is not just a tremendous sequel, it may be a step towards John Wick being one of the greatest action trilogy's of all time, and possibly the best ever. Many sequels fail, this is not new information, John Wick: Chapter 2 does what most sequels wish they could, expand on the earlier movies while adding something new and interesting. Chapter 2 not only succeeds but will be remembered as one of the great sequels in recent memory.