Film Review: John Wick: Chapter 2
John Wick: Chapter Two: The One Man Army That Stands Above the Rest
In a world overstocked in assassins and their creeds, hitmen, spies with very elusive daughters, and very angry drag racers, how does the John Wick franchise stand above the fray? By going back to the basics. John Wick: Chapter 2 is a film that continues to pump life back into the action-based urban-fantasy genre that began with its prequel. This does not mean that you’re better off staying home and re-watching the first John Wick. John Wick: Chapter 2, while still offering all of the elements that made it revolutionary in its field, it expands its mythos in a colorful story, told even more visually dynamically than the first.
John Wick: Chapter 2 picks up where the first movie left off. The story follows the title character (Keanu Reeves) as he tries yet again to retire from his life of being the most feared assassin in the criminal underworld. An old acquaintance (Riccardo Scamarcio) takes advantage of his momentary step back into the darkness to call in a favor owed. A request that John cannot refuse lest he reap the consequences of disobeying the rules of the criminal underworld that he used to be a part of. With enemies and former cohorts pressing in on him from all sides, John Wick must rely on his skill, cunning, and dapper suits to stay alive long enough to kill those who would keep him from his peace.
The assassin that needs to take on the world may be a recently overplayed trope, but John Wick uses this story to set the gold-standard in modern action films. It does so by, unprecedentedly, letting the audience actually see the action. With most action movies relying on a shaky camera and a gratuitous amount of cuts during the most exciting parts, John Wick allows the viewer to catch all of the action. It is absolutely thrilling to be able to watch Keanu Reeves flawlessly execute masterfully choreographed fight scenes. The camera gives us enough space on the screen to not only not confuse who is who during the fight, but a wide enough space to make us feel like we’re playing a video game, and the seamless flow of the scenes suggest that it’s a video game that we’ve mastered. One can only imagine the hard work and effort that was put in by Keanu, director Chad Stahelski, and the whole crew to be able to pull off these beautifully captured dances.
The exemplary fight scenes aren’t the only thing that set John Wick: Chapter 2 apart, though. The use of color throughout, while a more subtle beauty, was visually spectacular. Whether it was flames and shadows dancing on John’s face, blood mixing in water, stark-blue lighting in creepy underground tunnels, or brightly lit shootouts in a hall of mirrors, the visual facet was a dazzling display that did not leave the audience wanting.
The optical orgy of opalescent ornery offings aside, the second chapter offers a more in-depth detailing of the borderline mythical criminal world that lives just beneath our own that the first chapter began to allude to. Complete with its own currency, a network of eyes and ears right under our noses, and old-world rules and laws, the story stimulates as well as the action. It runs so deep that by the end of the movie the audience is dreaming of a sequel, just to be taken back into this world.
Smooth, beautiful scenes accompanied by intriguing new urban mythology all ably performed by the entire ensemble made John Wick: Chapter 2 the real treat of the year. Hopefully, by patronizing this film, we can send a message to the studios that these are the things that we are looking for in an action movie, and not just a reiteration of the same exact cookie-cutter tripe we’ve been fed lately.