“You stabbed the devil in the back. To him this isn’t just vengeance, this is justice” Keanu Reeves’ John Wick is back and better than ever in this stylish, hyper-violent sequel. In 2014 original, John Wick, Reeves portrays former hitman John Wick who sets out on a mad rampage after a Russian mobster kills his dog and steals his beloved car. In this film, he’s honouring a blood oath that he took years ago with Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). The deal: kill Santino’s sister and he earns his freedom from the oath. It all sounds a bit ‘Godfather’ but it’s actually the films central premise.
Wick travels to Rome where we encounter some beautiful scenery; each opulent building adding to the elegance of this film. What follows is a very stereotypical montage of Wick being lined up for bespoke suits and the best firearms around. Similar to the first film, we are given a club scene scenario for Wick to disguise his gunshots. This time its against a piece of operatic, club music that sets the scene perfectly. A lot of the violence in these particular scenes are held in the catacombs of Rome which may be reminiscent of the scene in Hannibal TV in which Will tells Hannibal that he forgives him. Of course, there’s no forgiveness here as Wick’s blood pumping assault mirrors a first person shooter game.
Although this film has received a generally positive critical reception, there are a few that believe that this is a mindless showcase of weapon pornography. Yes, there does seem to be an endless amount of guns but director Chad Stahelski frames the fights in a wonderfully, elegant and realistic way. John isn’t just shooting his opponents in the head, he’s using Aikido and Judo, he’s anticipating their every move and he is being just as tactical as he was in the first film, if not more so. There is a skill and art to it that mirrors Hong Kong based martial arts films, for which Reeves is a big fan of.
After this blood-soaked display, a hit goes out on Wick for $7 million USD. Not only does Wick learn that people really want that money but also that the criminal underground is EVERYWHERE. A subway once filled with innocent people now becomes a breeding ground for potential killers and at this point in the narrative I’m thinking ‘poor bloke must be tired…his kidneys must be on their last legs!’ but no, Wick keeps going and more power to him!
The main rivalry in the film lies with John and Cassian (Common) who engage in a duel on a moving subway train, both have similar fighting styles which means their fights are often very drawn out, leaving us waiting for five minutes until there is any dramatic conclusion. Other adversaries include Ares (Ruby Rose) who is seemingly omnipresent in the film but unfortunately never gets any time to really shine. Ruby Rose has more than enough time to make up for it though with a string of action films under her belt this spring with xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Resident Evil 7.
As we’re nearing the 2 hour mark, Wick, Santino and Ares participate in a ambitious, shootout in a hall of mirrors. The following scenes are exquisitely shot (handled perfectly by cinematographer Dan Laustsen who is an incredible talent), each colourful neon frame is embraced by a bullet ricocheting off of a body. In fact, a lot of the decor is similar to Adam Wingard’s 2014 thriller, The Guest.
With 302 gun shots fired and 128 total kills, it’s not hard to see why John Wick is the best in his field, it’s also not hard to walk out of the cinema with a headache and a slight case of tinnitus. But what John Wick: Chapter 2 excels at is a rip-roaring depiction of rage and vengeance stripped to its core; angry and trapped, Wick is a force to be reckoned with. And as the film closes to Wick running for his life, it’s never more apparent that no matter who he kills, he will never be free. Overall, Chapter 2 is a richly entertaining, hyper-violent splatter-fest that not only honours the first film but in fact excels it.