When a movie does as well as John Wick, you can absolutely expect a sequel. Who are we kidding, you know it’s immediately going to be slated for a trip to franchise island. Knowing that, it’s difficult to see how to improve on the wholesale carnage, humor and heart of a movie meant to be a stand-alone.
John Wick comes out the gate crushing any notion it’s going to rest on its laurels. The opening sequences are action packed and just as brutal yet still in keeping with that irreverent humor that cemented the original as a fan favorite. The fights sequences are close contact and bone cracking. The fighting styles (Judo, Jiu Jitsu, and wicked gun play) have been kicked up a serious notch and the body count hits a new level. Rest easy, his new dog is alive and well.
Chapter 2 delightfully wastes no time in resolving the original storyline in violent but hysterically awkward fashion. The recap by Abram Tarasov (Peter Stormare) reminds you of his reputation as Baba Yaga amongst the Russians and quickly brings you up to date – he owns a chop shop; do I really need to tell you why John’s there? – without over burdening you with unnecessary dialogue or scenes. It also firmly establishes this as a step up across the board from the original movie.
Of course, such a quick divorce from the reason for his violent reentry into the murderous world of – seriously – organized crime begs the question: What the hell is there to disturb John’s retirement now?
Well, Winston (Ian McShane) did warn John he couldn’t return without there being consequences and it seems he was right… enter Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) with a marker John can’t (trust me he tries) refuse to honor. If you had any question if this movie would be able to hold on to its heart, trust and believe director Chad Stahelski is more than up to the challenge of visually kicking you in the teeth and leaving you to lament over John’s inability to catch a damn break – don’t worry the dog is still breathing – or find the space to just grieve in peace.
John may have revisited his ass-kicking meta-assassin ways for love (and some seriously righteous “you killed my damn dog” vengeance”) but it seems a blood debt may completely drag him kicking and screaming back into the fold. The devil has come to collect and he’s not interested in taking no for an answer.
Chapter 2 blows opens the doors to The Continental and breathes life into the rich world of the Assassins’ Guild only hinted at in the first movie. Derek Kolstad’s writing seduces you with a trip down the rabbit hole and into of the inner workings and rules that hold this world together. Kolstad expands his world building to reveal an intricate network of businesses and people with skill and wit. As John navigates the rules of this guild, the ruling “High Table” as he travels abroad (hello beautiful Rome) in pursuit of his target layer after layer. If you thought the New York operation was something, wait until you get a load of Rome. The action and fighting and gun play have a constant thread of believability only strengthened in this second installment. We see John scoping out buildings, getting custom – bullet proof..ish – suits made and making a visit to what has to be the greatest Sommelier (Peter Serafinowicz) in existence – he’s not selling wine people.
Reluctantly – but successfully – carrying out his mission brings John’s world into sharp focus and you just know A LOT of people are about to die. And just to keep things wicked, you’ll finally get the answer to how someone can use a pencil to devastating effect. On a side-note: this fight scene was hands down some of the slickest work I’ve seen in a minute; makes a girl want to run out and buy some number two pencils… yes I am AWARE I have violent tendencies.
Common makes an appearance as the uber-skilled assassin Cassian with a grudge (his anger is absolutely righteous) to settle with John and the scene where they first cross paths and every one after that are adrenaline filled and kick ass.
Ruby Rose is Ares, D’Antonio’s right hand. She puts in a more than respectable, if non-speaking, performance as his go-to gun and John’s watchdog in Rome – I have to say I’m enjoying her recent choice to take roles that put a weapon in her hand.
The Bowery King played by the ever-immortal renegade Laurence Fishburne adds another layer to this criminal underworld in a devastating display (if his power base is a real thing then there’s one seriously influential mofo running many a city is all I have to say) of believable strength.
There’s really no way to discuss all goodness on offer in Chapter 2. This is a bombastic, over top roller coaster of a good time with an excellent cast throughout and as all good soon to be trilogies, Chapter 2 ends on a cliff-hanger that promises more mayhem – and hopefully even more glimpses in to the inner-workings of a seriously well developed world of assassins – lies in John’s future as things go “international.”
Needless to say, the Boogeyman is back and he’s a complete and utter (but totally not retired) badass.
Rating: 5 out of 5
In this next chapter following the 2014 hit, legendary hitman John Wick [Keanu Reeves] is forced back out of retirement by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassins’ guild. Bound by a blood oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers.
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Bridget Moynahan, special appearance by Franco Nero, with John Leguizamo, and Ian McShane
Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Written by: Derek Kolstad
Based on Characters Created by: Derek Kolstad