Movie Reviews

‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ – A Gleefully Over-the-Top Orgy of Violence?

john-wick-chapter-2

The first installment of ‘John Wick’ came out of nowhere, slaying action audiences as a violently over-the-top Keanu Reeves vehicle directed by his ‘Matrix’ stunt double and action choreographer, Chad Stahelski (2nd Unit director on Marvel’s ‘Captain America: Civil War’).  While this was his first directorial seat, his vast experience coordinating martial arts, gun fights, and practical stunts informed his sensibilities, creating a film that was at once a throwback to 80’s one-man-army extravaganzas and a modern-day game changer.  The two are at it once again with ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’, upping the ante in body count, broken limbs, and insane practical effects, as well as expanding upon the underground criminal mythos introduced in the original.

‘John Wick’ had the simplest of concepts – Keanu Reeves’ titular retired hit-man seeks revenge on the Russian mobsters who steal his car and kill his dog (a gift from his wife who succumbed to cancer prior to this story’s start).  In his quest to quench his vengeance he ends up at a hotel for killers called the ‘Continental,’ run by Ian McShane’s Winston, a character as charismatic as he is omnipotent in all things criminal.  The establishment is a veritable hide-and-seek base for the underworld, where all murderous activity must be refrained and all payments made in uniquely stamped gold coins.  In ‘Chapter 2,’ not only is McShane back extolling advice on John’s new predicament (an appropriately oily crime boss played by Riccardo Scamarcio is cashing in a marker to force Wick to perform a foul deed for him), but the audience is introduced to the fact that the Continental is a franchise with elaborate safe havens all over the world.  Of course things go sour for John Wick and before long he finds himself in the cross hairs of every assassin hiding in plain sight.

Once the filmmakers ramp up the action, ‘Chapter 2’ really starts firing on all cylinders in sequence after extended sequence of pure, unadulterated cinematic violence.  It’s still a cathartic experience to watch what is ostensibly an invincible ‘hero’ in an unrealistic situation.  Since the action is grounded in real, practical stunts and choreographed fighting, ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ is a veritable ballet of bullets and fists.  Couple that with a burgeoning mythology of a sophisticated, stylized criminal network governed by a compelling set of rules, and a stellar new franchise is born.  While it is certainly not for the faint of heart, what directors like Stahelski and ‘The Raid’s Gareth Evans are doing right now, taking the torch of guys like John Woo and creating perfect representations of the genre, is sure to please all fans of the hard R-rated action film . . .

 

Directed By: Chad Stahelski

Written By:  Derek Kolstad

Rated:  R

Running Time:  122 min.

* * * 1/2 (out of 4 stars) -OR- A-

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