The Boogeyman is Back.
DIRECTOR: CHAD STAHELSKI/2017
Keanu Reeves returns as ultra-efficient killer, John Wick, in the sequel John Wick: Chapter 2. If he had only returned to the life of a killer in the first film to avenge his dead dog and stolen car before walking away again…this time he is definitely back. There is a significantly high amount of property damage and body count before the opening credits even roll, if that tells you anything about how this sequel is going to go.
Picking up just a short time after where the first film left off, John is in hot pursuit of his stolen car, still being held by the brother of Viggo Tarasov, the mobster from the first film. The action is off with a bang, and this is just the warm-up for the audience’s sake. As the adrenaline gets pumping, John Wick very rarely takes his foot off the accelerator.
With his car back, his second dog at his side, and his ability to finally relax, John reburies the guns, gold coins, and other tools of the trade, ready to settle back into the life he has chosen, rather than the murderous one he left behind. As soon as the concrete is poured, fate comes knocking on his door, quite literally, in the form of Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). Santino was the man who secured John’s withdraw from his killer lifestyle to be with his wife, but it of course came with a price, in the form of a blood marker that John is obligated to repay if it is ever called in. Santino is here to call in the marker. Failure to comply, or fulfill the terms of the marker, equals death. If he fulfills the terms and kills his intended target, Gianna D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini), Santino’s sister who sits upon the High Council (an inner circle of the worst baddies), then the entire High Council will be after him, which means certain death. In a lose-lose situation, what does John Wick have to lose?
Derek Kolstad, who penned the first installment, is back writing John Wick: Chapter 2 which, along with returning director Chad Stahelski, gives this new story a strong sense of continuity with the first one. The tone, humor, pacing, and action are about what we saw in the first film, so those who loved John Wick, will certainly enjoy this sequel.
Globetrotting between New York and Rome, we get to experience all that this underworld society of contract killers has to offer. From the finest tailors of tactical evening wear, to the latest in party favors (weapons), along with the finest dining and luxury suites, no expense is spared.
The first film’s laser-like focus of a story about a man getting revenge for his dog and car was an asset, allowing the audience to just sit back and take-in the murderous artistry of this so-called “boogeyman”. Its liability was that we didn’t get to learn a whole lot about the sleek, members-only underground hitman’s club and its hotel, The Continental, as much as we would have liked.
The strength of John Wick: Chapter 2 is that we do get to open up that world and live in it even more throughout the film. Globetrotting between New York and Rome, we get to experience all that this underworld society of contract killers has to offer. From the finest tailors of tactical evening wear, to the latest in party favors (weapons), along with the finest dining and luxury suites, no expense is spared. This opened up world is the true strength of the latest film in this series. Likewise, the weakness of Chapter 2 is that by opening up the world of John Wick, we lose a little bit of the sharp focus of the last film. John Wick: Chapter 2 also features a callback to a premise we have seen before in the James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun, that may come off as a bit unoriginal, though visually striking. Otherwise, John Wick: Chapter 2 surpasses the original.
“Chapter 2” is an appropriate term here, as this is definitely the continuation of a story already in progress and less simply just another story as an excuse to bring back these characters. The action is kicked up a notch, and may feature the most close-range kill shots of any film before it. Chad Stahelski, with his background as a stuntman, shoots some of the most artistic action sequences, demonstrating again that he understands how his former craft can be used to serve the larger whole. The scenes of hand-to-hand combat are beautifully shot, and not cheapened by constant cut-away shots that have dominated more recent action films.
If one is looking to get into acting, besides auditioning as a “walker” on AMC’s The Walking Dead, there are plenty of opportunities to be one of the many henchmen who contribute to the body count of John Wick in future installments. If the closing scenes are any indication, a John Wick: Chapter 3 will feature an insane body count.
Returning for this installment are the Continental Manager, Winston (Ian McShane) and concierge, Cheron (Lance Reddick), along with a brief appearance by Wick’s friend and mechanic, Aurelio (John Leguizamo). Despite a return engagement, these characters remain the three mystery men that I’d like to get to know more of, regarding their backstory, in future installments. Bridget Moynahan again appears as Wick’s deceased wife, Helen. Joining on for this film are Common, Ruby Rose, and Reeves’ Matrix co-star, Laurence Fishburn.
So strap in, and get ready for another adrenaline ride. John Wick: Chapter 2 delivers everything you could hope for in a sequel for this action franchise and points the way forward as long as the audience shows up for this installment. As Wick says, “You wanted me back…”, and for this sequel he’s right! Welcome back, Mr. Wick