John Wick: Chapter 2
Gun Fu with Style

The original John Wick movie came out in 2014 with little fanfare, but very quickly became a word of mouth hit, especially on home video.  It revitalized the career of Keanu Reeves, giving the actor his most talked about role since the Matrix trilogy.  Following its surprise success, making a sequel was a no-brainer.  John Wick: Chapter 2 is immediately poised to become a much bigger success than its predecessor and fortunately, that success will be justified.

After an exciting car chase opening that brilliantly works a Buster Keaton movie clip into the action, John Wick returns home hoping to resume his retirement that was so rudely interrupted in the first film.  Unfortunately, his retirement was built on a marker and the owner of that marker has come to collect.  Against his will, John Wick is forced back into the hitman business and is on his way to Rome where he must eliminate a high-level target.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick in Chapter 2Eliminating the target only makes matters worse as suddenly there is a contract out on John.  He returns to New York City which turns out to be a city littered with contract killers, including the bodyguard for the target he took out in Rome who wants to avenge his ward.  With the help of Keanu’s old friend from The Matrix, Lawrence Fishburne, Wick must navigate his way to the man who put the contract out on him and take him out before he can even think about living out his life in peace.

The world that director Chad Stahelski and screenwriter Derek Kolstad have created with John Wick is one of the things that make it so interesting.  It is a world where anyone and everyone could be a hitman and the business is handled like any other business.  If you want to put a hit out on someone, you have to call Accounts Payable where a woman will take down the information, fill out the proper paperwork, and forward the message to distribution where it is sent out to all available operatives by an old-fashioned computer.  Those who have seen the first movie know that the Continental Hotel acts as sort of a safe haven and upon its grounds, no business is to be conducted.  In the sequel, we learn that there is also a Continental Hotel in Rome and the same rules apply there.  It is easy to infer that there are hotels like this in many major cities across the world.

It is also a very stunning visual world which they have created, making John Wick: Chapter 2 one of the most stylish-looking action movies I have seen in a very long time.  Take a freeze frame of almost any shot and it would look great hanging in a frame on the wall.  The climactic action scene which takes place in an Art of Reflection museum exhibit echoes the Hall of Mirrors climax in The Lady from Shanghai and is visually as exciting as any of the special effects we saw last year in Doctor Strange.

As serious of an action movie as John Wick: Chapter 2 can be at times, the movie always remembers to have a sense of humor.  There are plenty of laughs in the film and even when these laughs come during an action scene, they always feel earned and intended by the movie.  This is set up in the opening action sequence which cuts back and forth between Wick fighting to get his car back and Peter Stormare telling us about how Wick went on a rampage when his stupid nephew killed a puppy, referring to Wick as the boogeyman, and explaining, humorously, that the stories, if anything, had been watered down.

About the only weak element in the film is the plot.  While it is certainly strong enough to get us from start to finish without losing interest, it lacks the crispness of the original, which was a straightforward revenge tale.  Here it feels more like levels in a video game.  Once the first level—getting his car back—is complete, he moves on to the next—assassinating the woman in Rome—and so on and so forth.  The movie also lags a bit in between the action scenes.

Those are minor quibbles, though, for a movie that has some incredible, violent action sequences that will have the audience oohing, ahhing, and cringing in equal measure.  John Wick: Chapter 2 is a worthy sequel that should earn the series even more fans who will be ready for the inevitable third chapter that will likely pick up right where this one leaves off.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is rated R for “strong violence throughout, some language, and brief nudity.”  There is some gruesome violence taking place in this movie, so the R rating is definitely warranted.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of John Wick: Chapter 2.