John Wick Chapter 2

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
John Wick: Chapter 2 poster Rating: 8.5/10 (24,030 votes)
Director: Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad, Derek Kolstad (based on characters created by)
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose
Runtime: 122 min
Rated: R
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Released: 10 Feb 2017
Plot: After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

In an era where action films involve a lot of shaky-cam and multiple editing techniques, films such as John Wick and its sequel are a pleasant breath of fresh air – even if they are basically nods back to the Hong Kong style of action films of the 80s and early 90s.  The first film told a simple tale of revenge when a retired assassin, John Wick (Keanu Reeves on finest form), is forced back to his old life when he has his car stolen and his dog killed.  The story was light, but the action was fluid, brutal, and (most importantly) visible on screen!  No surprise given the film was the brainchild of the stunt and choreography team who worked on The Matrix films.  This second chapter in the tale picks up pretty much right from the end of the first film as an introductory segment sees John fetch his stolen car from the chop-shop that it was dropped off in last time around.  After the extended intro sets the tone, the main story plays out as a promise John made to the wrong man in order to retire comes back to haunt him.  As John gets embroiled in the secret world of the assassins once more, we learn more about their rules, and what it means to betray them.

Ruby Rose is a welcome addition to the cast as the silent and deadly Ares.

 

The film plays like a meld of ‘A Better Tomorrow’ and ‘Neverwhere’.  The action is extremely reminiscent of old action films directed by John Woo and starring (usually) Chow Yun Fat.  Even the setting up of the action resonates with echoes of those classic action films, with guns being dropped off at strategic locations to enable quick ‘reloading’ on the escape.  The ‘Neverwhere’ aspect comes with the manner in which the underworld society of the assassins operate in plain view without being seen.  As you watch the action, swift and brutal, playing out, it dawns on you that not only do no civilians get hurt, but most of the time they don’t even notice the death being dealt out right next to them.  How the assassins have their own secret areas, marks, communication, all in plain view of the normal folk going about their business has so many echoes of Neil Gaiman’s story.  When Laurence Fishburne shows up in a character who seems to be similar to Islington, you wonder whether the writer of John Wick 2 are fans of Gaiman’s other works also.

As mentioned, it is refreshing to see the action play out so well on screen.  We have car chases that don’t rely on the ‘Fast & Furious’ editing, where 20 different shots of gear sticks, brakes, wheels, tyres, etc are cut together to give the ‘impression’ of action.  No, instead one camera follows a car weaving through traffic.  The physical action employs the same style of Gun-Fu that we saw in the first film, only this time it seems even more refined.  The impressive choreography on screen is marvellous to watch, and almost seamless in execution (I say almost – there were a couple of moments where the shot seemed to fire at a different angle to which it should, but who cares when it is so much fun).   At times they even have fun with not only the absurdity of the action, but the fact the public don’t even notice it, most memorably when John and Cassian (Common) are walking through a busy underground station taking casual shots at each other without anybody noticing.

“Nobody can tell you what John Wick is….you have to see it for yourself!”

But as well as being a great action film, this is also mythology building.  The nuances of the underworld start to become clearer, which actually serve to explain a few seeming contrivances in the first film.  The myriad of rules which tie this world together hold the highest importance, and when a promise is made to someone, be it just for peace, or for more, they are blood pacts which cannot be denied.  The closing moments of the film hint at the direction for the next Chapter, and I certainly hope it comes soon because in a world where we have to assume Bourne killed a man with a magazine, even if we didn’t see it, a series which shows a man kill three men with a pencil that we see in entirety is extremely welcome.

 

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