Dog’s Movie House: “John Wick: Chapter 2” A Thrilling Roller Coaster Ride!
Howdy Folks! It’s The Kendog!
“John Wick” has joined the ranks of movies such as “Predator” and “Aliens” and even “Die Hard” as one of the greatest action movies of all time. It’s endlessly re-watchable, features a committed performance by Keanu Reeves in the lead role, and has an uncommonly strong emotional hook that gives the film more depth than it has any right too. As a low-budget hit, a sequel seemed inevitable, but unlike the sequels to the above mentioned films, “John Wick: Chapter 2” is every bit the equal of its predecessor, providing more thrills without sacrificing the lean storytelling that marked the original film.
“John Wick: Chapter 2” picks up almost right after where the first film left off. The thrilling pre-credits sequence finds John (Keanu Reeves) trying to get his beloved car back. After a few minutes of normalcy, John is visited by an old colleague named Santino (Ricardo Scamarcio) who reminds John of a blood oath Wick made before he got out of the business. After Wick’s refusal is met with some violent results, John gets back into the business on the advice of his old friend Winston (Ian McShane). Unfortunately for John he finds himself betrayed by Santino and the target of a huge contract, so now it’s up to John to not only find Santino but to do so without getting killed by the veritable army of hired guns out for his head.
The original “John Wick” was that perfectly created action animal that managed to not only provide terrific choreographed gunplay but also gave you an unexpected emotional hook in terms of how Wick’s deceased puppy related to the love of his recently deceased wife. That hook is no longer there for the second film, but returning director Chad Stahelski and screenwriter Derek Kolstad make up for this absence by doubling down on both the world-building and the action, making for one hell of a ride for a little over two hours.
The acting continues to be above-average for a action film, with Reeves doing admirable work as Wick. Keanu gets a lot of crap for his range (or lack thereof) but here he does some great subtle work as a man who, because of both his past and present actions, finds himself in over his head. Reeves is able to convey the pain and the realization of what his actions have wrought without going over-the-top with his emotions. On the other hand, Wick’s not the Terminator either. Oh don’t get me wrong: Wick is the ultimate badass, but his actions take a toll on both his mind and his body, and Reeves does an admirable job of dramatizing both.
Reeves again gets wonderful support from McShane as Winston, the owner of the Continental, a hotel that caters exclusively to hitmen. We find out that the Continental is more than just a single hotel, but an entire organization of safe houses that operate worldwide, with the Continental in Rome being operated by a man named Julius (the legendary Franco Nero).
Also doing sterling work are John Leguizamo as Aurellio, the chop shop operator from the first film, and Lance Reddick as Charon, the ever-so-polite and solicitous concierge for the Continental. If there is a Chapter 3, I’d love to see these two get expanded roles.
As for the newcomers, Scamarcio is appropriately slimy and double-dealing as Santino, while Claudia Gerini has a couple of great scenes as Santino’s powerful sister. Common shows up as Cassian, a hitman turned bodyguard who is understandably pissed when Wick takes his client. There are two sterling fight scenes between Cassian and Wick, and Common does not only a great job with the physical stuff, but is equally convincing in presenting a façade nearly as threatening as John Wick. Ruby Rose shows up as Santino’s deaf head of security and the sign language she employs, especially directed towards Wick, provides some of the bigger laughs in the film without distracting from her deadly nature.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the “Matrix” reunion between Reeves and Laurence Fishburne. Fishburne plays The Bowery King, a crime lord in New York whose organization consists almost entirely of the city’s homeless population. The Bowery King is a very cool character and I wish he spent more time in the film. I’m hoping we get a third film that fully expands his character.
That’s one of the many things I love about this film. Kolstad has created this wonderfully twisted world of assassins and other criminals, complete with moral codes and ethics that are explored just enough to have the audience craving more. It’s this world-building along with the fine performances that make “Chapter 2” almost as entertaining in the quiet moments as in the moments of orchestrated mayhem.
Almost, but not quite. “John Wick: Chapter 2” takes the action foundation of the first film and then lights a rocket under its ass! The last half of the film is more action packed than almost anything I’ve ever seen save for maybe “The Raid 2” and the choreography is just so same creative that the constant barrage of gunplay and combat never gets old. And yes, you do finally get to find out what it’s like for John Wick to kill somebody with a pencil, heh!
The ending does leave an opening for a third chapter, and for that I’m extremely hopeful. In the meantime, if you’re an action movie lover you have got to put “John Wick: Chapter 2” at the top of your list. It may soon become one of the greatest action movies of all time. It’s definitely the best action movie of the year, hands down, and we’re not even through February yet. 5 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!