After retrieving his beloved car from the remnants of the Russian mafia, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) returns home with his pet dog, hoping to reenter retirement, putting his past behind him once again. The silence is broken by Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio), an underworld figure who calls in a marker, forcing John to organize the murder of Santino’s sister, allowing him to take her place at the High Table, a secret league for crime families. Reluctantly called back into duty, John travels to Rome to set up shop, arming himself and waiting for the perfect time to strike. Completing the job, John is hit with Santino’s betrayal, soon on the run as the villain offers a substantial bounty for his death. Unsure where to turn, John instead goes to war, facing scores of assassins out to make a fortune, following his instincts as increasingly hostile opponents come to collect, making survival difficult for the feared assassin.
Review John Wick: Chapter 2
Review John Wick: Chapter 2
The biggest surprise of the 2014 film year was the release of “John Wick.” Instead of submitting to the action cinema norm, “John Wick” established its own show of force, with directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch working to redefine gun fights and hand-to-hand combat with a sensational reworking of genre cinematography, visual effects, and pure adrenaline. It was one of the best pictures of the year, shaking big screen roughhousing out of its slumber.
For “John Wick: Chapter 2,” Stahelski returns to oversee the title’s transition into a franchise, and boy howdy, does he ever get it right. A true continuation with an invigorating sense of escalation, “John Wick: Chapter 2” maintains the delicious vibration of the original film, keeping the titular character on the prowl while choreography gets harder, bullets are faster, and star Keanu Reeves is even more committed to overall brawling, presenting the follow-up with all the brutality it requires.“John Wick” was never about realism.
It was a cartoon, and a hyper-violent one at that, with the production making precision the new excess, delivering an inspired level of mayhem that was tightly controlled by the helmers. “Chapter 2” picks up where the previous picture off, only Stahelski is making his influences perfectly clear, commencing an opening car chase with projected imagery from a silent comedy, drawing a clear line from Chaplin and Keaton to John’s wild ride of vengeance. That’s not to suggest the new film is played for laughs. It most certainly isn’t, giving weight to John’s odyssey as the killer who yearns for peace is now pulled deeper into trouble. But there’s a heightened madness to the action that’s fun not only to watch, but also amusing to consider the production’s glee when staging all this carnage. It’s “Looney Tunes” in extremity and body count, but “Chapter 2” isn’t campy, returning the same pinched-faced anarchy that gave the first effort such a powerhouse presence.
Perhaps the screenplay isn’t radically reworking the “John Wick” recipe, but there’s a widening of the assassins’ world from the first movie, moving beyond the sanctuary of The Continental to an enigmatic world of danger. John is still grief-stricken and deadly when he wants to be, but he’s pulled into a larger scheme in “Chapter 2,” forced into submission by a blood oath to Santino, who uses the notorious killer to make extreme changes in the organized crime world, feeding his ego. “Chapter 2” travels to Europe, returning John to the order of professional killing, going on a “wine tasting” (i.e. selecting weaponry) and fitted for a tactical suit before he embarks on his assassination.
The resulting mess pits John against armed goons in Roman catacombs, refreshing the franchise’s sense of speed and savagery, watching John flip, slice, crack, and shoot bad guys emerging from all sides. It’s the first of many battles between the weary warrior and his enemies, with Common joining the ride as rival Cassian, who has a score to settle with John, taking their hostilities into the real world, sneaking in beatings between patient pauses to avoid civilian detection.
“Chapter 2” loses none of the rock ‘em, sock ‘em attitude of “John Wick,” keeping the main character a bruised and battered killing machine with thinning patience and tremendous aim. Reeves is once again amazing in the role, submitting to the harsh physicality of the part, also remaining limber enough to help sell the credible CGI used to sweeten bullet wounds and bloodshed. It’s a soft-spoken, fist-clenching character that fits Reeves like a glove, and he’s clearly relishing the chance to return to the “John Wick” world, upping his gun control game substantially. Joining Reeves is Scamarcio, who’s ideally spineless as the primary villain, and Ian McShane makes an impression as The Continental manager, Winston, who tries to steer John in the right direction. Adding mischief to the movie is Laurence Fishburne, joining the effort midway through as John’s former rival who’s been waiting for revenge, only to come to the thrashed hit man’s rescue. Fishburne understands the animated tone of “Chapter 2,” adding some needed theatricality to the feature.