“John Wick: Chapter 2” May Be The Best Action Film Of The Decade (So Far)
Yeah, I’m thinking he’s back.
After the sleeper hit that was 2014’s “John Wick”, a sequel was always inevitable. Yet, with one of the directors of the first film, David Leith, dropping out and a relatively short turnaround following the first movie’s release date, it was easy to be skeptical.
Turns out we were dead wrong. From the opening set-piece involving massive amounts of gunplay, vehicular combat, and hand-to-hand, everyone involved strives and succeeds to make “John Wick: Chapter 2” even more bonkers than the first.
The story this time around is that legendary hitman, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), is called out of retirement by crime boss Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who has come to demand one more hit out of John per a blood oath they took long ago.
While he is reluctant, he eventually agrees to the hit, where of course, things go horribly wrong. Now, Wick is on the run from his target’s bodyguard (Common) and many others in the assassin underworld, trying to get revenge on the party who set him up.
One of the most surprising aspects of the first film was its rich lore, and this film expands the universe to a large degree.
The hitman underworld gains a stark amount of depth, with concepts and characters from the first film like The Continental Hotel and the enigmatic Winston (Ian McShane) are given considerably more screen-time while new elements like crime lord, The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), and mute hitwoman Ares (Ruby Rose), are incredibly welcome.
In a way, the world of “John Wick” feels very comic book-y, and that comes complete with the badass protagonist and visual panache to match.
Keanu Reeves has never been better. His steely-eyed demeanor makes for a truly intense lead hero who sells corny one-liners like there’s no tomorrow. In any other hands, this impossibly skilled assassin character could feel like a parody, but instead Reeves solidifies Wick as an icon.
Cinematographer, Dan Lautsen, supplements Reeves’s central performance with a stylized look that feels unique from most other action films. The neon-colored camerawork gives an abstract surrealism that reinforces the awesomely bizarre world of the flick.
Director, Chad Stahelski, is probably most to thank for the success of “John Wick: Chapter 2”.
With a (literally) breakneck pace, Stahelski moves from set piece to set piece without cheapening any one of him. With his background in stuntwork, he manages to craft some of the most flat-out insane action ever put to film.
Yes, even crazier than “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
There’s just such a sense of fury to the action; the close quarters combat carries an air of frenetic energy that results in some truly insane kills as well as fight choreography that, for lack of a better word, will leave you standing up in the aisles screaming “Fuck Yeah!”
I’m struggling to even decide which one is my favorite- from a shadowy brawl in the catacombs (pictured above) to a kill montage in a subway station to a mirrored showdown in an art museum, they’re all deeply memorable.
Chad Stahelski has perfected the art of the fight scene.
Somehow, someway, he manages to supplement all the throwing down with a truly engaging narrative going off a pulpy script by Derek Kolstad that delivers just a multitude of quiet moments as well.
My favorite part of the film may just be the build-up to John Wick’s big contact, where his walk in the catacombs intercut with a concert up above creates an epic sense of tension.
Bravely, Stahelski ends his film on a really dark, ambiguous note that raises excitement for the inevitable sequel while also providing an emphatic punctuation mark to this film’s themes.
“John Wick: Chapter 2” is a delicate ballet of violence that truly to be seen to be believed. Every headshot feels like a shot of adrenaline, and I have no idea how Stahelski and Reeves will ever be able to top it.
When it comes to action films, there’s no option more killer.