Director: Chad Stahelski
Writer: Derek Kolstad
Cast: Keanu Reeves (John Wick), Riccardo Scamarcio (Santonio D’antonio), Ian McShane (Winston), Common (Cassian), Ruby Rose (Ares), Lance Reddick (Charon), John Leguizamo (Aurelio), Laurence Fishburne (Bowery King), etc.
Cinematographer: Dan Laustsen
Composer: Tyler Yates
Running Time: 122 minutes
John Wick 2 is a testament to the best action films of all time, it is a non-stop, unforgiving, thrill ride. I’m pleased to write that it’s actually superior to the first film in almost every way. John Wick: Chapter 2 is the equivalent to John Wick on steroids. When trying to outdo a film for a sequel, many filmmakers often forget what made the original great. Luckily, Stahelski went against the mold and delivered a sequel that remained true to the spirit of the original, while also exploring several aspects that were not as fleshed out in the original.
John Wick: Chapter 2 starts off just five days after the events of the first film. Wick needs to get his car back. Per usual, Wick dismantled several baddies with his usual precision. A day after he brings the car back home, he’s met by Santonio D’antonio (awesome name), who asks the reluctant Wick to perform one more hit. Wick refuses, and D’antonio promptly destroys Wick’s house. This doesn’t go down well with Wick, but he accepts the job anyway because he knows it’s his only choice.
One of the films greatest strengths is the director, Chad Stahelski. He took everything good about the original and amplified it with exceptional direction. Props to him and cinematographer Dan Laustsen, there were so many excellent shots in John Wick: Chapter 2. There were no excessive camera cuts, Stahelski favors the perfection of a long shot. Because of the sharp camerawork, each headshot and punch to the gut felt real. This realism can be attributed to; Stahelski’s sure-handed direction, Laustsen’s expert cinematography, and Stahelski’s emphasis on accurate stunt choreography. Stahelski was a former stuntman, this is one of the main reasons that the stunt choreography in both films is completely accurate.
Can we talk about how insane the club scene in this film was? I was honestly bored of the film until Wick went to Rome, it was at this point where everything changed. The music, style, action, everything worked once he traveled to Rome. I firmly believe that Cassian and Wick’s first standoff is one of the greatest action sequences of any film in years. The club music was bumping, and it was playing in unison with the incredible onscreen action, I LOVED this part of the film. I did not think Stahelski would be able to top the club scene from the original film, but he crafted perfection with the Rome sequence.
Let’s start with the acting and characters in this film. Keanu Reeves continues to be a bankable movie star in every sense. Reeves was born to play John Wick, and it shows. Yes, Wick is not a vibrant emotional character, but Reeves performance is just as determined as usual. Just like in the first film, Reeves does an excellent job with the gunfight and martial arts choreography. Of course as an actor he doesn’t have a ton of emotional range, but acting isn’t just about dialogue, it’s also about physically committing to a role, and Reeves nails this aspect. Secondly, Common was perfect for John Wick: Chapter 2. He expertly played Cassian, an emboldened security guard who proved to be a near equal match to Wick. Common is convincing as Cassian, and he delivered a strong performance. I believe that Cassian proved to be the greatest match for Wick we have seen, it was thrilling to watch the two characters duke it out. Common clearly trained for this role similar to the way Reeves trained for both John Wick 1 and John Wick: Chapter 2. When the two fought, both showcased a significant arsenal of realistic fight choreography. The same can be said for Ruby Rose as Ares, Santonio D’antonio’s mute bodyguard. I’m glad to write that Rose was just as committed to her role in this film as Reeves and Common were. Ares was a unique and comedic character, and she received the most laughs of the film, the audience in my theater loved her. Ricardo Scamarcio played Santonio D’antonio, the main villain of the film. Unfortunately, D’antonio was a relatively plain villain, there wasn’t really anything special about this character. However, Scamarcio turned in a decent performance, and that’s what is most important. Finally, Laurence Fishburne and Keanu Reeves reunited in this film, and it was good to see them on screen together again. Fishburne played Bowery King, an all knowing man who has his eyes on the city, every single part of it. Fishburne was serviceable in his role, and I’m excited to see him again if there is a third John Wick film (crosses fingers).
If you loved the underworld universe in John Wick 1, I’m happy to tell you that in this film, they give us a more detailed look at the world within a world. Audiences will get a more extensive look at how interconnected everything in the assassin world is. The lore of this world is one of the unique factors that allows the John Wick franchise to stand out among other action films.
The weakest aspect of John Wick: Chapter 2 is that this time around, Wick’s motivation is not as compelling. In the first film, the bad guys killed his dog and stole his car, that’s a simple but effective motivator. In John Wick: Chapter 2, the bad guy blows up Wick’s house, this is a very similar revenge storyline, and it felt a little repetitive, from a story standpoint. However, this is not a fatal flaw, audiences don’t watch a film like this for an intricate plot, they want stylized headshots!
Overall, John Wick 2 is better than John Wick 1 in practically every way. Wick is just as badass, but he actually gets decent competition this time, due to the standout characters, Cassian and Ares. Stahelski improved his direction in most factors as well, even though it was already stellar in the first film. This is a film you have to see in theaters, John Wick: Chapter 2 is worth the price of admission people!