Director: Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Riccardo Scamarcio, Claudia Gerini, Common, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo, Ruby Rose, Laurence Fishburne
Plot: After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.
Studio: LGS (LionsGate/ Summit) Run Time: 122 Min. Prod. Budget: $40 Million
Review: The first John Wick was a pleasant surprise. I went with my sister, who was just going to hang out with me and we were treated to a beautiful cinematic symphony of a barrage of bullets, close quarters combat and a unique criminal underworld. Keanu Reeves was back and he and the film moved fast and knew just when to get out.
The second film moves just as well, paced over a slightly longer running time and equally filled with an interesting world of characters, and fantastic fight choreography but it can’t help but lack in the freshness of its predecessor. Built into a setup for a trilogy of films that is done more organically than most films are today Chapter 2 suffers from middle chapter syndrome, though like a flesh wound Mr. Wick sustains throughout the film it barely fairly phases him.
The simplicity of the first film cannot be topped so the filmmakers draw from the more is better sequel playbook and do come out winners. There are two rules to the criminal underworld: no fighting on Continental grounds (neutral territory) and every blood debt must be paid. “Without rules we are just like the animals” Ian McShane growls, and the manner in which the movie twists around the perceived simplicity of these plot mechanics using them to set the stakes and pace is one of the simple pleasures this film delivers on. Coupled with the facial expressions of bad guys as they react to whatever spectacular move Wick just did to avoid death is a great reward system and another positive example of video games influencing the art form of film.
Although the closest art to which the movie relates is in the execution of the choreography. Directed by former Matrix stuntman David Leitch watching the quickness and brutal efficiency of the MMA and gunplay on film is its greatest asset. The one area where the movie comes up short is way before it even starts. Any element of surprise is gone thanks to the first film and the more of the same approach threatens to tire the film out were it not for proper pacing. As an extra 20 minutes added on compared to the first film the movie gave me just enough time to wonder if they were taking the situation as high as it could go.
The settings; a warehouse, an underground Roman concert lit with laser lights and catacombs as well as the NY city streets and a fun house mirror spa of sorts more or less match the nightclub bathhouse, villain hideout, Wick household and docks of the first film letting me know the secret MVP of the franchise is the Production Design. But again we’ve seen this before. Still it’s good to see John Wick (and star Keanu Reeves) working again.
Continuum Rating: -2 -1 0 +1 +2 / +plus one /Action B grade
Keanu Reeves took part in intensive tactical training, which is very evident in this movie, based on how he moved and operated around the firearms and in the fight scenes. He explained in interviews that he had learned Judo, Ju-jitsu, Krav Maga, a bit of boxing and multiple firearm techniques. The first movie, John Wick was a bad-ass assassin that was on a mission for vengeance. Compared to the first movie, this movie was bad. The action shots were great but the plot was lacking and this movie is best described as a “Look what I just learned!” movie.
There are many plot holes and quite a bit of questions that are never solved and the ending is totally contrary to what Wick was fighting for in the last few movies. They also mention aspects of the secret organization that they never develop and the audience is just supposed to know what they are talking about. I enjoyed that the director, Chad Stahelski, expanded the underground assassin community from a few hitmen and helpers like in the first, to a global entity that he took part in while in Rome. The problem became that he made it too big and by the end of the movie, it seemed like every third person on the planet was involved. Apparently, killing people in the street no big deal in this universe.
This movie reminds me of; The Tournament because assassins are killing each other for no real reason other than they can and have something to prove. The Expendables because there are lots of great fight scenes but not much substance to the movie. The first John Wick movie because this movie is a continuation of the story line and lastly, the whole Batman franchise because Keanu often ran in and out of fights waving is jacket about like a cape. The only thing he missed doing was grunt, “I’m Batman!” every time he did.
Action movie: 8/10 Story line movie: 4/10 Overall movie: 5.5 or 6. This movie isn’t bad but all it has to offer is explosions, a few decent jokes and some great fight scenes. I would recommend it for an action movie and a background movie but not for a movie to pick up off the shelf that peek’s interest. I am actually disappointed about how it turned out and saddened about how it ended especially because of how good the first movie was.