Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 4/5 bourbons
John Wick was such a perfect action film as it oozed in style and spent the first 30 minutes building up its lead character as this unstoppable force before he even fires his first bullet. Perhaps my favourite aspect of the film was the camera work which made sure we saw every round hit its mark (or head) and keep its leading man center frame at all times. Since The Bourne Identity, too many action scenes rely on quick cut, shaky cam footage leaving us dizzy and trying to figure out what in the world is going on. It’s a cheap way for studios to save time and money training actors and choreographing long fight scenes, not when they can do it all in post production in the editing room. Seeing Keanu Reeves performing all the fights and shootout scenes himself is a shining example of an actor committed to his craft.
Skeptical would have been the best word to describe my thoughts once the sequel was announced, after all, what are the odds of lightning striking twice (apparently 1 in 9 million). We now know who John Wick is and what he’s capable of, so the intrigue element of the first is gone, his dog’s death was probably the best motivation you can get for the character and it would have been very ill-advised to kill off his new pooch (we can only handle so many dog deaths even if it’s John Wick). Luckily director Chad Stahelski understood all this and instead focused on expanding the mysterious criminal underworld in which John Wick once operated. The world building was great in the first as it only teased aspects of it and showed that behind the corruption there are rules which each character must respect to keep some semblance of order.
The opening of the film is an explosive adrenaline rush following shortly after the events of the first film. Proceedings kick off with a fist clenching car chase followed by brutal fight scenes as John pays a visit to the brother of Viggo Tarasov, the villain from the first film, and forces him into a truce so that John can continue his retirement. Unfortunately for John his temporary relapse has not gone unnoticed. Italian crime lord Santino D’Antonio comes knocking on John’s door demanding him to honour his marker “a blood oath” owed to Santino in exchange for John’s retirement and life with Helen. John is reluctant but his friend Winston reminds John of the rules and the importance of honouring his marker.
Having John return from retirement out of duty and not emotion is a great way to allow us to further explore this world. The film definitely doubles down on the action scenes but also spreads them out allowing for exploration and character development. It’s a clever choice by the director to keep the film from going stale. There’s still plenty of borderline cheesy but awesome dialogue building up John Wick as the myth “The Baba Yega”. The fight scene choreography is outstanding as Wick carves through his adversaries with brutal efficiency. We see John take his fair share of licks as well as he’s no longer seen as the boogeyman (he can be controlled by Santino) but rather as a sheer force of will and determination. Also, yes, there is a pencil scene.
While I hate myself for admitting it, the film has some niggling flaws. The dialogue gets far too exposition heavy as characters practically reveal their life stories, drives, and motivations. Bringing Laurence Fishburne into the sequel seemed like a cool nostalgic nod to The Matrix, but, my god does Fishburne ham it up. His line delivery is awful and he relies on doing the crazy eyes to look more intense. His scene ultimately led to very little and was, unfortunately, a dip in quality to the overall product.
Along with Trainspotting 2, John Wick: Chapter 2 is another fantastic sequel for the start of 2017. If you did not enjoy the first film than the sequel is definitely not for you. John Wick: Chapter 2 is everything fans of the first film could have wanted as it dials the action and style up to 11.
Gun to my head. JW1 was better, story did more. But, JW2 is close, action is certainly exhilarating, and I love how they set it up for three. I think that Wick now has a legitimate claim as the best action character of the last 15 years. Great review.
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I agree the first is still the superior film but not by much. I hope that the John Wick films are a wake up call for Hollywood to implement actual fight choreograph into fight scenes rather than quick cuts and shaky cam.
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Better than the first. Nice review.