John Wick 2 – John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
Directed by: Chad Stahelski | 122 minutes | action, crime, thriller | Actors: Keanu Reeves, Bridget Moynahan, Ruby Rose, Ian McShane, Peter Stormare, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Peter Serafinowicz, Thomas Sadoski, David Patrick Kelly, Common, Franco Nero, Aly Mang
It must be quite a job; match, let alone surpass, the success of your first film. The first ‘John Wick’ excelled in its simplicity: mobsters anger assassin, assassin takes revenge and kills all mobsters. However, sequel makers tend to think that they have to ruin a simple setup like this by complicating it and turning it into an epic that it really isn’t (cough… ‘The Raid 2’… cough). What a relief that the universe of John Wick lends itself extremely well to this. Director Chad Stahelski actually falls into every pitfall just mentioned, but at the same time gives the viewer exactly what to expect from a John Wick sequel: a “badass” film.
The difference with most action movies compared to ‘John Wick’ is that the latter actually introduces an interesting mythology. The Continental hotel, every hit man’s dream accommodation, screamed for more depth in the first part. It forms the basis for the plot of ‘John Wick: Chapter 2′. John Wick (Keanu Reeves) thinks he’s finally freed from his life as a murderer. Just as he is ready to bury all the material from his grueling past, Italian mobster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) is at the door. An old pact with Santino forces Wick to don his best suit one last time and travel to Rome armed to the teeth for the mission that will finally see him retire.
The setup seems simple, but because D’Antonio is also a member of the Continental hotel, we have to deal with the rules that come with that accommodation. That creates complications, more cool scenes with Winston (Ian McShane) and a lot of medieval metaphors. The first part had a lot of references to Greek gods and folklore, here we get references to kingdoms, coronations, a war of succession and a runaway demon in front of us. This imagery gives the story considerable weight, as if it were literally something lost in history. All this is further enhanced by the beautiful shots presented to the viewer. Of course Rome already looks beautiful, but the incidence of light that cameraman Dan Laustsen manages to capture in certain shots is truly stunning.
What ‘John Wick’ is all about, however, is the action, and this time again the stunt team does a phenomenal job. There are even more interesting finds within the fighting style from the first part (renamed gun-fu by the makers). Especially the fight scenes between John Wick and Cassian (rapster Common) provide the necessary tension. The only blemish on the film is in the other mercenary Wick fights with throughout the film. Unfortunately, Ares (Ruby Rose) never really comes across as being a challenge to John. The fact that the makers have made her stupid may say enough about the acting qualities of this lady.
All in all, ‘John Wick 2’ is a better movie than its predecessor. We get a better look at how the world of assassins operates, something that many viewers were interested in after the first part. The makers know how to package the whole thing in a well-connected story in which the action is well distributed over the various acts. Not that we don’t wish the guy a good life, but secretly we hope that John Wick can never retire.