John Wick: Chapter 2 Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a 2017 action film written by Derek Kolstad and directed by Chad Stahelski. The film is the sequel to the highly successful 2014 sleeper hit John Wick and is the second in a planned trilogy of films based around the character.

Story
Only about a day after the events of the first film John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is trying to settle back into his recently disturbed retirement. However, since he voluntarily came out of retirement this means that Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) an Italian mobster, is able to call in a blood oath favor that John owes him. After initially refusing, John ultimately agrees if only to fulfill the contract so he can kill Santino. After he completes the contract, Santino, attempting to tie up loose ends, puts a bounty on John's head which sends every other assassin in New York after him.

The set up, though not as clean or straight forward as the setup for the first film, is a good setup for an action film and a natural progression from the first movie. Once you've established that John is an unstoppable killing machine capable of killing dozens of Russian mobsters without breaking a sweat the next logical step is to have him fight against an army of people who are also killers of his caliber.

Something I noticed in this film that I didn't in the last one is that John Wick is ultimately the most boring character in his own movie. Everybody and everything in the crime universe surrounding him is so much more interesting than he himself ever will be. For example, the two main supporting characters/co-antagonists of this film are Cassian (Common) and Ares (Ruby Rose), two assassins hunting John. They are so much more interesting and fun on their own I was really disappointed when each of them left the film in one way or another. Cassian is a stoic badass like John, but you feel like there's a warmth and relatability to him, probably because he's seeking revenge for the person John killed. Ares is particularly interesting because even though she too is stoic she has a reason: she's mute. You immediately want to know her backstory as well as Cassians. I suppose what makes these two characters stand out is their determination to an almost insane degree to catch and kill John Wick. I think the reason I didn't notice John's lack of interesting traits was because I understood his motivation: he wants revenge for his dead dog. That's a relatable motivation and I guess the audience is supposed to put themselves onto John, to imagine we've just lost somebody we really cared about after having a really crappy week.

The screenplay isn't bad, but it's not spectacular either. There are a few really good one liners, though I'd probably have to watch the movie a few more times to remember them like I can remember the lines from the first one.

Something I found monumentally strange is the way people didn't react to what was happening around them. In fight scenes where John is killing mercenaries you'd think there'd be pedestrians running away in terror. In this film, nobody seems to care. They just walk along, minding their own business. It's not a deal breaker, but I did find it strange.

Technical
The fight scenes are just as awesome and well done as they were in the first film. The cinematography has very little shaky cam, with nice wide shots so that we can see the full scope of the action. In the beginning the camera was strangely tilted up slightly which made for a weird angle, but it didn't really hurt anything. The choreography is just as fun and more brutal this time, including a highlight fight with a pencil.

They use a really pretty neon color scheme in this movie, though I don't think there's any meaning to glean from it. It's just there to make the movie visually cool and it does its job well.

Keanu Reeves' performance is the other reason why John Wick is the least interesting character in this movie. The difference in the first film, once again, is the relatable motivation and that we were invited to project ourselves, and our emotions, on to John Wick. In this film, it's a little harder to do that, so you can clearly see Reeves struggling to act. The other actors, however, all do fantastic work, being able to breathe life into their characters just by being there. I'm pretty sure the majority of why Cassian and Ares are so cool is because they're played (extremely well) by Common and Ruby Rose.

The music is not really of much note, though they do make a few musical callbacks to it in the beginning. They play the music that was playing during the first film where they were talking about who John Wick is and it gives you goosebumps to remember that scene and what it means for this film.

Summary: John Wick: Chapter 2 is a fun action film and a worthy sequel. Though it may have a rough start at first it works its way up to a fantastic climax and a killer ending that had me wanting the third film immediately. It's been pulled from a number of theaters already, but if it's playing somewhere near you definitely go see it.

A

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