×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’

As in 2014's surprise hit, this elegantly choreographed action sequel elevates its brutal confrontations to a dazzling form of modern dance.

With:
Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Peter Stormare, Bridget Moynahan, Franco Nero, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4425200/

“John Wick” wasn’t designed for a sequel. It began with someone killing John Wick’s dog, and ended with the vengeance-bent uber-assassin stealing a new best friend from an animal shelter, after dropping 76 (or more) dead bodies along the way. The movie, which launched the directorial career of Keanu Reeve’s stunt double in “The Matrix,” Chad Stahelski, succeeded not on the strength of its story, but on the elegance of its action, and while it reaches at times to justify its own existence, “John Wick: Chapter 2” boasts a reunion with “Matrix” co-star Laurence Fishburne and two major improvements on the original: First, no animals were harmed in the making of the film. And secondly, the human body count is significantly higher.

If the latter detail offends your humanistic sensibilities, then this isn’t the franchise for you. Even for “Grand Theft Auto” junkies and those at the other end of the spectrum, it can actually get tiresome watching Wick eliminate a seemingly inexhaustible stream of henchmen at times. But there’s a quality to the violence here that elevates it above the literal (and reprehensible) nihilism of movies like last year’s “Hardcore Henry,” and instead achieves something more akin to dance.

The John Wick movies accomplish what Hong Kong action flicks did a quarter-century ago, seducing bloodthirsty (predominately male) audiences into appreciating an exquisitely choreographed modern ballet. If you doubt that Stahelski sees his own job in these terms, look no further than how he lights each scene: Even neon demon Nicolas Winding Refn must be taking notes at the way Stahelski and his crew place bright-fuchsia fluorescent tubes in a New York subway, poltergeist-blue spotlights beneath the arches of ancient Roman catacombs, and nightclub-worthy accents throughout an elaborate hall of mirrors art exhibit.

In the opening scene, a Russian crime tsar (Peter Stormare) reminds us of Wick’s ruthless boogeyman reputation, and after Wick retrieves his stolen 1969 Mustang and knocks off another dozen or so of his men, he brokers a truce that puts the vendetta of the first movie to rest. Rules matter to the criminals in Wick’s world, and even he is bound by them, lest he find himself outside the protection of the Continental — a secret network of assassins dreamed up by screenwriter Derek Kolstad for the original.

Recognizing that the Continental was effectively what distinguished “John Wick” from nearly all the other revenge sagas out there, Kolstad has decided to elaborate on its mythology this time around, expanding the homicidal fraternity beyond a single New York hotel to an international organization governed by its own sort of omertà. Rule No. 1, “No blood on Continental grounds,” serves to protect bitter rivals, the way “base” does in grade-school games of tag. Rule No. 2, “Every marker must be honored,” explains why Wick can’t retire just yet: In order to leave the organization, he pledged to fulfill one last favor when asked. And now, his marker has come due.

Wick’s debt drags him into the middle of a power play for a seat at the High Table, a council of international super-criminals in which Italian playboy Santino D’Antonio (the impeccably dressed Riccardo Scamarcio) wants the spot held by his sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini), and orders Wick to eliminate her. It’s a job that Wick describes as “impossible,” but actually proves to be remarkably easy (she actually does the deed for him) — until he tries to escape, only to be cornered by both Gianna’s bodyguard (Common) and D’Antonio’s henchmen.

Perhaps the Continental ought to consider a third rule: Contract holders can’t snuff the assassins they engage, or vice versa. No sooner the task been competed than D’Antonio issues an open contract on Wick, which goes out wide to every assassin in the world (none of whom keep their cell phones on silent), making for an amusing montage as Stahelski reveals just how far the Continental’s network extends. With the exception of one returning character, a look-the-other-way local cop played by Thomas Sadoski, every speaking role is held by someone related in one way or another to this vast underground organization, though some — like the Orthodox Jewish banker who watches over his safety deposit box, or the “sommelier” who deals guns as if they were fine wines — wouldn’t dream of turning a weapon on Wick.

Ironically, the John Wick introduced at the outset of this movie sincerely believes he’s done with violence. Except we’re dealing with Keanu Reeves here, and though he’s acrobatic enough to meet the physical demands of the role, the actor has never in his career managed to convey complex emotion: In this case, Reeves’ version of extreme reluctance looks more like mild constipation, never more pronounced than in the scene where he makes a decision to violate the Continental’s most important rule, knowing full well it will leave him “excommunicado” (a silly word rendered menacing by hotel manager Ian McShane). That said, it might be even more amusing if he’d gotten himself kicked out for overstepping one of the hotel’s unwritten restrictions — specifically, its no-dogs policy.

Film Review: 'John Wick: Chapter 2'

Reviewed at Rodeo Screening Room, Beverly Hills, Feb. 2, 2017. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 122 MIN.

Production: A Lionsgate release of a Summit Entertainment presentation of a Thunder Road Pictures production, in association with 87eleven Prods. Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee. Executive producers: Jeff Waxman, Robert Bernacchi, David Leitch, Kevin Frakes, Vishal Rungta. Co-producer: Holly Rymon.

Crew:

Director: Chad Stahelski. Screenplay: Derek Kolstad, based on characters created by Derek Kolstad. Camera (color): Dan Laustsen. Editor: Evan Schiff. Music: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard.

With:

Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Peter Stormare, Bridget Moynahan, Franco Nero, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane.

More Film

  • Les Arcs's Co-Production Village Kicks Off

    Les Arcs's Co-Production Village Kicks Off 10th Edition

    Marylise Dumont’s “Black Dog,” Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen’s “Ashes and Snow” and “Each of Us” are among the 20 projects which will be pitched at the 10th edition of Les Arcs Film Festival’s Co-Production Village. The Co-Production Village will run alongside the festival which will be presided by Ruben Ostlund, the Swedish helmer of Palme d’Or-winning [...]

  • Maria Alché Debut ‘A Family Submerged’

    Visit Films Sells Key Territories With Maria Alché Debut ‘A Family Submerged’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID — New York’s Visit Films announced at Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur market, that the company has secured distribution in Mexico and Spain on Maria Alché’s directorial debut, “A Family Submerged.” In Mexico, the film was snagged by top indie production and distribution company Interior 13 Cine, distributors for Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra’s Colombian [...]

  • Macao

    'Clean Up' Takes Top Prize at Macao Festival and Awards

    Korean drama movie, “Clean Up” took the best film prize on Friday night at the closing ceremony of the International Film Festival and Awards Macao. The jury, which comprised Chen Kaige, Danis Tanovic, Mabel Cheung, Paul Currie, and Tillotama Shome, said: “’Clean Up’ is a powerful, visceral film which is symbolic and naturalistic at the [...]

  • Breaking Glass Snags Prizewinning Argentine Gay

    Ventana Sur: Breaking Glass Snags Argentine Gay Drama ‘Marilyn’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    In a last-minute deal inked at Ventana Sur, Breaking Glass Pictures (BGP) snapped up North American rights to gay-trans drama “Marilyn,” the feature debut of Argentine helmer-scribe Martin Rodríguez Redondo. The Philadelphia-based company has been on a mini-buying spree, having previously snagged threesome drama “We Are Three” at the Buenos Aires confab. BGP has bought [...]

  • Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt in

    Paramount Inks Deal for Theme Park in South Korea

    Paramount Pictures has announced a deal to install a studio-branded theme park in an entertainment resort being developed in South Korea. The agreement was struck between Paramount and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, which owns the Inspire Integrated Entertainment Resort in the South Korean city of Incheon. Mohegan has invested KRW 2.8 trillion ($2.4 billion) in [...]

  • Arca, Cacerola, Viento del Norte, Panda

    Arca, Cacerola, Viento del Norte, Panda Team on ‘Mental Health Not Included’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — In a return to film production after serving as president of Argentina’s National Institute of Film and the Audiovisual Arts (INCAA) and then as a member of parliament, film producer Liliana Mazure is teaming with prestigious counterparts in Mexico and Brazil on a three-part, pan-regional dark comedy, “Mental Health Not Included.” Lead [...]

  • IFFAM and Variety Celebrate Asian Talent

    IFFAM and Variety Celebrate Asian Talent Up Next

    The International Film Festival and Awards Macao and Variety combined forces for the second year running to put a spotlight on Asia’s acting talent. A well-attended meet-the-stars press event on Friday afternoon in Macau was addressed by leading local official, Maria Helena Senna de Fernandes. She turned the microphone over the five actors from different [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content