John Wick: Chapter 2
John Wick: Chapter 2
2017. Directed by Chad Stahleski.
A visceral overture of violence, John Wick: Chapter 2 continues its minimalist revolution by delivering a fully automatic experience devoid of pointless explosions and overstuffed with close quarters head shots. Featuring unbelievable fisticuffs choreography, preternatural gun play, and an necessary (but gloriously indulgent) look into the secret world of assassins, this is 2017's first great film.
The stark contrast with the first film is that the reasoning for the violence lacks the depth of the first film and instead treats Wick as a piece on the board, with various forces maneuvering him into position to shakeup the underworld. At first this may be a turn off, but as Derek Kolstad's script finds its stride, all is forgiven as the viewer is enraptured in a frenetic orgy of ultra violence.
Keanu Reeves does a solid job, portraying Wick as a man of will. He is not invincible and the two hour run time sees its protagonist experience a gradual ass kicking, wearing the damage of each previous fight on his face like a road map of vendetta. The surviving players from the first outing all make appearances, and there is a wonderful amount of detail given to the culture of these refined killers. Common supports as a rival assassin and his fight with Reeves is one of the film's many guilty pleasures, particularly a nonchalant duel involving a crowded subway and silenced pistols.
Dan Laustsen's quick cut cinematography embodies the boldness of the first film while harnessing the subtle elements of his work on other films such as Silent Hill. He frames the world of contract killers as a Gothic time capsule, untouched by the conveniences of smartphones and constructed on forgotten crypts and neon nightclubs. Luca Mosca's costume design is the centerpiece, housing the various combatants in designer suits that are offset by a vagrant army, and the two meld perfectly, completing the killer eat killer ecosystem of director Chad Stahleski's design.
Ultimately, the second chapter falls just short of the first. The larger production value is apparent in virtually every scene and the stunt choreography outpaces the original, but the undeniable lightning in a bottle charm of the first is missing, mostly due to the film being an Empire Strikes Back level setup for future installments. Gone is the righteousness of Wick's plight as he transitions from hunter to prey and that concession is the only thing that holds back this film's greatness.
In theaters this weekend, John Wick: Chapter 2 is an excellent, next level actioner that takes no prisoners and wastes no time with setup. Featuring unbelievable shootouts and Reeves's trademark combat reloading, fans of the franchise will find everything they're looking for. If you loved the carnage that part one offered, you won't be disappointed, the minimalist dissent is alive and well. What is missing is the heart of Wick's predicament, but this is easily forgivable the second the bullets start flying.