Everything about John Wick is genius. And everything about John Wick: Chapter 2 is genius. We may very well have a brand new cult-classic franchise on our hands.
Keanu Reeves returns as the titular cold-blooded and collected killer to pick up right where the first film left off. He got a new dog, but he wants his car back now. The audience is lucky enough to see this in an opening sequence that has just about everything you could ever want in an action film, sans gratuitous nudity. He gets it back, alright – he is John Wick, after all – and he returns home to finally get some rest and relaxation. His intention is to finally but his past as an assassin behind him, but fellow gun wielder Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) has other plans.
D’Antonio was integral to the mythical event that allowed Wick to retire in the first place through a blood oath. Now, it is time for D’Antonio to collect. He wants John to kill his sister so that he will ascend to a place in the highest ranks within their assassin’s circle, but Wick is done. He wants no more.
So, as any rational person would do, D’Antonio blows up John Wick’s house. This prompts John Wick to begrudgingly accept the hit and travel to Rome where D’Antonio’s family hails from. As you may guess, the rest of the film contains blood, and a lot of it.
But what you may not guess is just how original and self-aware the film is. For an action film, it seems to steer clear of most cliches that plague the film industry in favor of plot twists that are genuinely unexpected and themes that are glossed over and dumbed down. At the core of John Wick’s character is someone who is full of emotion. He treats killing as nothing more than a job (for the most part), yet often sees the value in human life. He has a penchant for placing his opposition in dangerous positions but giving them a chance. For example, at one point Wick delivers a stab in the heart so precise that it will only kill his enemy if he takes the knife out and tries to fight back. You can choose to keep fighting and kill Wick or accept your loss and learn from it. Wick does this more than once, and though many may see it as simply an interesting way to defeat an enemy, I think that more will recognize this as the trait that makes this character so astounding.
There is a surprising amount of humor in this film found not in one-liners but in dry wit that had me laughing out loud – very loud, in fact. The movie has a great sense of black humor, making this film seem even more of a breath of fresh air than most action flicks. I’m tired of corny one-liners. We’ve seen more than enough. I’m tired of gratuitous violence without substance or unique style. This is why both John Wick films succeed.
The cinematography and choreography are both top-notch here. Every punch, kick, and gun blast feels fresh. Somehow, after two 120-films, each action sequence is filled with new and inventive ways for Keanu to kick some serious ass. The enemies have distinct qualities to their looks, and the locations are both colorful and moody while also being purposeful. A room full of mirrors, a cavernous tunnel, a staircase; each of these settings open up more possibilities than most would know what to do with. But director Chad Stahelski is focused and knows just want to do with them to keep things interesting.
Speaking of being focused, the original film is a lot more singularly focused in story than this one. The first worked incredibly well due to the simplicity, but Stahelski finds a way to expand upon that simplicity and achieve a level of worldbuilding that has not been seen in an action movie since, well, I’m not sure ever. There are so many subplots to be explored in this far-reaching cabal of assassins. So many characters; so many backstories. The rules of this killer’s club are able to open up almost endless amounts of spinoffs. You have blood pacts and hierarchies, friendships and enemies – and we haven’t even gotten the slightest glimpse into how one would go about gaining entry into this circle.
I would like to see many more films in the franchise. It’s a surreal level of violence that is neon-colored and energetic; it is brooding yet funny, stylistic but not the least bit contrived. Though Keanu Reeves has been best known for his roles in The Matrix, I predict that in just a short few years, we will be referring to him as the star of John Wick instead.
The Geeked Gods Score: 9.5/10. Amazing.
Stylish, bold, bloody and fun, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a violent thrill ride from start to finish.