Thursday, February 09, 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2

Year: 2017
Director: Chad Stahelski
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Ian McShane, Franco Nero

Plot: John Wick is forced by a blood oath to do a job for an Italian mobster who seeks to overthrow his sister from her place in the underworld hierarchy.

Review: The first John Wick movie was a huge success, putting Keanu Reeves back in the spotlight as an action star. This sequel seeks to do more of what the first film delivered i.e. violence and action, and boy does it deliver in spades.

But Chapter 2 isn't just John Wick blasting bad guy after bad guy, it's also an expansion of the universe introduced in Chapter 1. In the first film, we get to see a hotel for assassins where they are not allowed to conduct business while staying in it, as well as a clean up crew on call. In Chapter 2, we are shown how wide the underworld's network truly is, and how the infamous Continental Hotel has a Roman branch, using the same rules of course. And apparently, John Wick is a well known figure in this world, as everyone knows his reputation, and a lot of them fear him too.

This time around, John is forced by an Italian mobster, who had helped John successfully retire in the past, to help kill his sister in an attempted coup d'etat. John has to finish the job and stay alive as every hitman on the mobster's payroll tries to kill him to tie up loose ends, and his sister's men are also after him for payback.

Director Chad Stahelski, who co-directed the first film, and writer Derek Kolstad have outdone themselves here by not simply rehashing what has come before, but adding more characters and layers to a fascinating universe. If you thought there were plenty of assassins in the first film, get ready to meet even more of them here, all ready to spring into action via text message, and they can come from anywhere. It's also interesting to see the various professions that support hitmen like John, such as pawnbrokers, weapons dealers and even tailors who make body armor.

Reeves is still a badass here as John, looking like he just stepped off the first film and walked into this one. I do have a slight issue with Reeves' habit of nodding his head nearly every time he says something (which is weird), but one doesn't really give a damn if he can still kick ass, right? Riccardo Scamarcio is solid as the antagonist Santino, looking like a younger version of Marton Csokas. Common and Ruby Rose (her third film in a month) also shine as fellow assassins trying to kill John, while Lance Reddick, Ian McShane and John Leguizamo all make welcome returns from the first film. Reeves' Matrix co-star Laurence Fishburne also shows up as an underworld boss who uses pigeons and beggars to gather and dispense information.

As for the action, it is downright brutal from the get go. The lengthy opening sequence sees John take on the Russian mob in an attempt to get his car back, and the sight of car crashes, broken bones and bullet shots in succession is simply awesome to behold. After that? More close quarters shooting, knife fights, lots of headshots and a final fight in a house of mirrors. If that doesn't please you, I don't know what will.

Like the first film, one is left wondering why the police never show up when shit goes down, save for officer Jimmy from the first film making a comeback here. But it's a small issue that you won't be thinking about, not until the film's over anyway.

All in all, John Wick: Chapter 2 is fun, violent and bloody, as it should be. Another sequel is definitely coming judging by how it ends. Bring it on. (8.5/10)

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