The first John Wick movie was a bit of a surprise. Outside of The Matrix Trilogy (and various kung-fu movies he filmed since then), Keanu Reeves has not had a huge action hit. Sure, the actor picks and chooses his parts wisely, but this is what we have been missing from him. The first John Wick had an almost embarrassingly simple plot: retired assassin’s girlfriend dies, she gets him a dog, a moron kills his dog and steals his car, he gets revenge on EVERYONE. That’s pretty much the plot for every B-Action movie.
However, John Wick is magical in its execution. Besides The Raid and its sequels, there hasn’t been a mainstream film that was just perfection when it comes to execution of highly stylized violence. The film was directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, both stunt coordinators by craft, and it really showed. It’s a no-brainer that a sequel would be greenlit. Enter: John Wick: Chapter 2.
NOTE: This review does contain some descriptive spoilers.
It was kind of genius to title the film “Chapter 2” because it really works almost like the second chapter of a much larger book. The beginning of the movie continues moments after the end of the previous film. Although John got revenge for the death of his beloved dog, he still needs his car. After finding the chop shop where his car was being stored, John commences dismembering the bodyguards of Viggo’s brother, Abram (Peter Stormare, hilariously playing the scared gangster), John gets his car back. With his car back, he can now leave the life of a professional hitman officially and live in peace.
Of course, that’s not going to happen, though. John receives a visit from Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio) who is calling in on a marker for John. In this case, it’s a literal marker (complete with bloody fingerprints), a blood oath that John made to help him in his time of need. His need is rather sinister as he needs John (being the best assassin ever) to go to Rome, and carry out Santino’s wished. Rules are rules, if John doesn’t accept, then his life will be forfeit which he confirms after going to The Continental and chats with Winston (Ian McShane). It’s off to Rome we go.
As John is coming back into the world he was trying to avoid, it’s clear that he’s still a respected badass within the secret society of assassins. When he runs into the concierge of the Roman version of the Continental when he is asked by Julius (the original Django, Franco Nero) who asks him “Are you here to kill The Pope?” and there is a genuine fear and concern because if anyone can do it, it would be John Wick!
Once we get to John’s mission, the rest of the film is balls to the wall action! After John reluctantly carries out his task, it’s pretty much him versus the underworld of Rome. He’s no slouch as he is wearing a well-tailored bulletproof suit that Bruce Wayne most certainly would wear, he carries out numerous headshots, close range fights, and everything in between. While his true antagonist is Santino (who of course betrays him), his rival in the movie is Cassian (rapper/actor Common) and Ares (Ruby Rose). The most planet surprise of the movie is Common, who has spent most of his movie career playing supporting roles, and is pretty much “the black John Wick” in this movie. He and Keanu Reeves embark on a city-wide fight as they shoot at, stab at, fall down stairs, crash through buildings, and anything else they can think of. Think of the Peter Griffin vs The Chicken fight in Family Guy, but extended, and all over Rome! You almost want to see a spin-off for Cassian as he is a badass in his own right! Ruby Rose also has a few moments in this movie where she shines as well as Santino’s mute enforcer. She and John trade insults in sign language, which is a funny part of the movie. Speaking of which, John must know like 100 languages!
John gets a bounty placed on his head has numerous assassins after him. The one cool thing about this hidden society explored well in the film is that everyone and anyone can be an assassin. It’s not just the muscle-bound thugs he fights, but homeless bums, soccer moms, even street performing artists could be assassins waiting to be activated. He needs help from someone he can trust, and who does a Keanu Ravens character trust more than Morpheus himself, Lawrence Fishburne? Complete with meta-Matrix jokes, Fishburne plays “The Bowery King,” with an extra flair that is great in the movie as well.
Now the movie is 100% perfect. Sometimes it gets bogged down its own world building. The movie being longer than the original, pads out time with expositional dialogue surrounding the secret world of assassins, which tends to be on the “dry” side. The previous film also had a little more heart than its sequel, as he was fighting for love of his pet, this one he’s just fighting.
But even with those flaws, this movie was 100% pure awesome. The body count is higher, the fights are more bone-breaking, everything about this is why we love hard R action films! There hasn’t been a more satisfying action movie recently since The Raid 2. It’s highly encouraged that you go see this opening weekend and with a great crowd and you’ll laugh, cheer, and groan (at some awesome fight conclusions).
John Wick: Chapter 2 is now in theaters.