Coming out this weekend in theaters, John Wick: Chapter 2 is an entertaining, adrenaline filled, blood-soaked romp that explodes on the screen.
When we last left our vengeful assassin, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), he was trying to get out of the gun for hire business and settle down with his wife. Things take a turn, and the love of his life dies. To make matters worse, the Russian Mob steals his 1969 Mustang and kills his puppy (which happens to be a gift from his late wife). Chapter Two picks up with Wick settling some old scores with the Russians before heading off into retirement.
Wick is now living in a home near Long Island and seems to be enjoying a quiet existence. He’s even purchased a brand new K-9 companion. But his quiet life is again short lived when his past comes knocking on his door. An Italian Gangster named Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio) cashes in his blood marker to get Wick to execute his sister Gianna in Rome (Claudia Gerini). With his sister out the way, he can take his place at the “High Table” which is a group of criminal elites.
Wick’s honor drives him to accept his debt to Santino, and he shows up in Rome to do the hit. What was suppose to be his final job sets off a chain of events resulting in a $7 million price tag being placed on Wick’s life. And if that wasn’t enough headache, Cassian (Common), a highly trained assassin, is hot on his trail.
Keanu Reeves is picture perfect once again as Wick. Reeves doesn’t come across as your typical action hero on screen, able to convey a sense of oddly dry humanity in every scene. When Wick is with his new dog and walking towards the wreckage that is now his car, one can’t help but see how at peace he is. Wick doesn’t come across a cold-blooded killer, more like an assassin purely by circumstance.
Reeves is joined by some impressive co-stars who each turn in their own great performances. Ian McShane is outstanding as Winston, the head of the league of assassins. I loved the scenes that Winston had with Santino while Wick hunts him down. He brings a meaty bravado you can almost taste to any scene in which he’s involved. Common turns in one of his best on-screen performances as Cassian, proving to be quite the antagonist for Wick.
Direction and Cinematography
Director Chad Stahelski is back at the helm of this franchise and shows why he’s perfect for this material. Stahelski draws from his extensive background as stunt/action coordinator to develop scenes that have a dazzling composition. What was striking to me was the similarities between Stahelski’s work on The Matrix and this franchise. Both contain fight sequences with artistic, dance-like qualities to them. Just as there was beauty in way Wick dispatches of Santino’s henchmen in the museum, the same can be said about any fight sequence between Neo and Mr. Smith.
Cinematographer Dan Laustsen is once again in top form as he manages to capture the intensity of each action sequences while still infusing his originality into each shot selection. I loved the use of the hall of mirrors and the neon lighting during one of the film’s final sequences. Laustsen used a myriad of directional shots to make the room appear even larger, and the neon light added the right amount of ambiance to the whole sequence. Laustsen, the mastermind behind Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, is no secret to great cinematography.
John Wick: Chapter 2 surpasses the loftiest of expectations. The film is incredibly balanced, providing an equal amount of moments which elicit laughter and gasps, especially when Mr. Wick gets crafty with a pencil. The action sequences are stellar and the level of entertainment in this piece is off the charts. I’m hopeful that John Wick: Chapter 2 can remain competitive this weekend if for no other reason that it will ensure we get John Wick: Chapter 3.