John Wick: Chapter 2
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The Boogeyman has come back out of retirement to take on the world’s deadliest killers in John Wick: Chapter 2 starring Keanu Reeves, Common, Riccardo Scamarcio, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Bridget Moynahan, Lance Reddick, Franco Nero, with John Leguizamo, and Ian McShane. Is this new chapter in the John Wick universe as awesome as the first, or has this franchise already fizzled out?
I love a good action film. I grew up watching Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme, Seagal, and Lee. Guns, explosions, and roundhouse kicks became ingrained into my cinematic DNA. Eventually the muscle-bound behemoths got old and in their wake emerged smaller action stars that replaced brawn and power with quick mixed martial arts skills. Heroes like Jason Bourne, Frank Martin, and Neo emerged and changed the action genre forever.
When I was a kid, I never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that Keanu Reeves would become one of the biggest names in action movies. This is Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan were talking about after all. Reeves has not only redefined the genre with The Matrix trilogy, but then shattered the mold and redefined it over again in 2014 when John Wick was released. For those who haven’t seen it, the movie is the perfect mixture of revenge flick, gun-fu, and insane fight sequences. It’s probably one of the best action movies in the past couple decades to hit theaters. It really is a must-see, must-own movie.
Not to be undone John Wick: Chapter 2 hits theaters this weekend and continues with its brand of jaw-dropping, ass-kicking awesomeness. The sequel picks up exactly where the first movie ended. John just disposed of the Russians at the pier and goes hunting for his stolen Mustang. After killing a butt-ton more faceless thugs and recuperating his vehicle, He extends an offering of peace to the new head of the Russian mafia. It is accepted and John goes home to once again just try to leave his past behind and enjoy a tranquil retirement. Unfortunately, one of the heads of the Italian crime family comes knocking on John’s door and wants him do to a job for him in order to fulfill a blood oath marker he owes. John reluctantly takes on his obligation and when things go south gets a worldwide bounty of $7 million on his head. John must now call in every favor and professional courtesy to survive.
As A fan of the first movie, I had a great time with Chapter 2. The violence is just gorgeous poetry as the choreography is pulled off flawlessly. So many times during specific kills, I reacted in my seat with very vocal “ooooohhs” and “awww damns.” If you think the Joker’s “magic trick” was bad ass in The Dark Knight, you ain’t seen nothing yet, brotha.
The movie isn’t just shooting, MMA, and explosions. There are some awesome car stunts too. I just wish there was more vehicular stuntwork, but nonetheless, all the stunts and scenes were gorgeously shot. It’s as if Nicolas Winding Refn and Sam Mendes made two movies and then those movies had a baby. John Wick: Chapter 2 would be their lovechild. Not only does the action look good, it was gorgeously shot on a pallet of vibrant neon. The cinematography was amazing, especially near the end of the film during a mirror sequence very reminiscent to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death.
The other major aspect of the film I really loved was how more of the mythology of the John Wick universe was shown like the gold coins, markers, and the rules of the Continental. This sequel reminded me so much of the sequels to The Matrix, The Raid, and Blade. The first movie was made to showcase the hero, while the sequel really elaborates the world they live in. We know who John Wick is, but I really appreciated how this movie delves into the world of the elite assassins. The only negativity is that some of the scene drag along and ruin the pacing, but to be fair to the filmmakers, I do feel the film needed these scenes for exposition. Plus let’s be honest, people would bitch that the movie was nothing but mindless violence with no development. What I do appreciate the most is that the world isn’t spoon fed. Not everything is explained which leads to a lot of mystery. This makes me as a viewer want more of this vast universe. My friend and I even talked how a “Continental” TV show would be awesome. Each week the sanctuary could host a different assassin on new “business.”
One of the last things I love about John Wick: Chapter 2 is that is feels like a video game filled with nameless dungeon thugs leading up to some incredible boss battles. But it’s not all button mashing as characters played by Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne, and Franco Nero provide points of reference and sometimes sanctuary to the story. I won’t spoil who they all are and why they are in the movie, but it was awesome to see a mini Matrix reunion. I was so hoping I’d see Trinity pop up on screen, but sadly I was disappointed. There is always Chapter 3. There is also a sequence where John has to visit a gunsmith, tailor, and librarian to complete his mission in Rome. You really get a sense of just how deep this life spreads around the world.
The bad guys in the movie were really super cool. I liked how they all had different styles and looks. Common plays Cassian, an assassin and body guard to one of John Wick’s targets. He provides not one, but two really brutal fights. Who I really was impressed by was by Ares played by Ruby Rose. It’s not explained if she is deaf or mute, but she only communicates via Sign Language. So it’s a good assumption the character is deaf, but if not, it’s pretty bad ass that she’s too cool to speak. To me it added a certain level of uniqueness to the character. Of course none of John Wick’s misery would exist if not for Santino D’Antonio played by Riccardo Scamarcio. He’s the puppet master that acts like a spoiled brat and uses the rules of the Continental to get his way.
The only faults of the film are the use of too many generic bad guys and the absurdity of all the situations. I’m not trying to knock on Common or Ruby Rose, but they are both quickly being typecast as the go to bad asses in much the same way that Christoph Waltz has become a go-to crime boss asshole. I’m not saying anything bad about their performances, as they were really good, but just starting to get tired of seeing them play the same characters over and over. And while I did understand the plot point of why John has to go back out of retirement, it didn’t pack as big of an emotional punch as the first movie. It’s as if you take away Vanessa from Deadpool and all that’s left is Wade Wilson killing every indiscriminate bad guys over and over and over again. Cool as it seems, it gets slightly boring after awhile, especially since 90% of the kills involve John shooting people in the knee first and then double-tapping thugs with perfectly aimed headshots. I was also sort of disappointed by the movie’s soundtrack. While the music score was was cool and set the tone of the scenes, the movie missed a bad ass song like Marilyn Manson’s “Killing Strangers” from the first movie.
Overall though, John Wick: Chapter 2 doesn’t disappoint. It’s a action movie for action lovers that needs to be seen on a huge screen with big ass speakers so you can really appreciate the bullets and punches. My friend that accompanied me at my screening never saw the first movie and said he could easily follow along because the entire movie itself goes over all the major plot points of the first. So to answer the million dollar question, Is Chapter 2, better than the first? My answer is no, but it’s really close. John Wick is a perfect action movie and it’s really hard to capture lightning in a bottle twice, but John Wick: Chapter 2 still does a fantastic job riding the lightning.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is an absolute blast. There are some slow moments as more of the universe’s mythology is explained, but when the action hits, it hits like a wrecking ball. Keanu Reeves once again shows why he has become one of the best names in action flicks. If you are a huge fan of the first, you definitely don’t want to miss the sequel. And even if you didn’t see the first, the sequel is still very easy to follow as the movie has plenty of flashbacks to catch you up to speed.