Release: Friday, February 10, 2017
Written by: Derek Kolstad
Directed by: Chad Stehelski
If you are on the fence as to whether you should see what happens to John Wick in a sequel, you should first ask yourself how much of a geek you are for the really technical stuff, like fight choreography. If you aren’t enthused about spending $12 to watch a glorified stunt reel, then there’s really no need to see John Wick: Chapter 2.
Despite appearances, Keanu Reeves isn’t the star here. It isn’t his new pup either. It’s a man by the name of J.J. Perry, controller of chaos and chief architect of silliness whose dedication to providing moviegoers with ridiculously high-octane action sequences is on full display. Perry is billed as stunt coordinator, but it is his passion that gives John Wick purpose; his technical expertise that cleverly disguises Chapter 2 as a brilliant display of martial arts that merely masquerades as a movie.
John Jonathan finds himself dragged out of retirement and clocking back in for another murderous shift when he gets a house call from one Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). In an effort to expand the story to an international stage, Wick must travel to Rome where he takes to the shadowy subterranean stretches of the Catacombs in order to eliminate his target — D’Antonio’s sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini), who is about to take a seat at the High Table, a council of high-level assassins.
Along the way he manages to make more enemies than friends and yet successfully thwarts an onslaught of bullets and daggers at the expense of an increasingly anesthetized audience. Not even The Hulk is this invincible. Or Neo. Or God. It’s the mythos surrounding the character that I really have a problem with. There’s absolutely no tension because John Wick is unassailable. He exists beyond rules, but it’s awkward because the guy is, at least in theory, mortal like the rest of us. There is something “badass” about him, sure, but that’s mostly his choice of wardrobe.
Where Chapter 2 really goes wrong is in its attempts to homogenize John Wick’s killer instinct. In spite of his ability to survive absolutely everything and to leave his assailants with less than nothing, we learn he is actually a part of something larger, that the rogue qualities that defined him in the original were a function of him merely being better at surviving. Chapter 2 tells us Wick isn’t really special. He just gets luckier than the average assassin.
The action may be mindless but it isn’t artless. Quite the opposite in fact. Perry’s knack for simulating natural movement in high-stakes, fast-paced, close-combat settings is pretty incredible. And if it’s not the art of the ass-kick,* then surely it’s the settings in which they take place that lend the film value — some of the most atmospheric and dynamic environments you’ve seen since The Matrix (a totally intentional reference once you find out who the other famous face is here).
Of course, we’re not done yet. Not even close. John Wick: Chapter 3 actually could be an interesting proposition given the events of the finale here. I’m hoping that someone will realize the potential that’s lurking beneath the surface. Something other than the potential to make a lot of money on the back of some impeccably rehearsed dance routines involving guns, knives and fists.
* John Wick gives new meaning to the idea that cigarettes are hazardous to your health, while Heath Ledger’s Joker could learn a thing or two about how to properly wield a pencil
Recommendation: Absolute mayhem continues in John Wick: Chapter 2. If you were a fan of the first you’ll probably like what comes next even more. For those who weren’t so convinced, well . . .
Running Time: 122 mins.
Quoted: “You stabbed the devil in the back. To him this isn’t vengeance. This is justice.”
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