Review: ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ is a Brazen Ballet of Beautiful Carnage

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In the opening frames of John Wick: Chapter 2, one thing is abundantly clear: We are in for one insanely high octane experience. Keanu Reeves reprises his role as the dapperly dressed assassin, who is essentially superman, if superman liked guns and killed people. Chapter 2 picks up right where the original left off. John is still rounding out his tour of vengeance, trying to retrieve his stolen car from the original, when we are introduced to Peter Stormare’s Russian gangster, who happens to be the brother of the antagonist from 2014’s John Wick. If you missed the original, but wandered into the sequel blindly, fret not misguided friend, Stormare’s soul purpose in this film is to synopsize the original. “He killed 3 men with a pencil!” Stormare cautions to his associate, whose face sinks, as all gangsters faces are apt to do when they hear the name “John Wick” uttered. The original saw the titular character seeking revenge on the foolish thug who dared kill his puppy and steal his car. What ensued was the gangster equivalent to armageddon, As John Wick unleashed hellfire upon all those that stood between him and the man who took his insanely adorable puppy away from him.

Derek Kolstad and Chad Stahelski return for this sequel alongside Reeves. The duo have prepared a film that sees even less dialogue than the original, and has only a few one liners and grunts preventing it from being a silent film with sound effects. The straightlaced Reeves serves as the perfect surrogate for this character’s deficit of language, and his stoicism is only matched by his menacing demeanor. While Reeves has always struggled to deliver piercing dialogue, a character like Wick provides him an opportunity utilize his presence, precision and preparation as a performer. The story here is of no consequence, which is a positive, because there is no story, not even a hint of originality when it comes to narrative conceits, but that doesn’t stop this sequel from being one the most innovative and downright breathtaking displays of violent action you are likely to ever see.

Chapter 2 hits all of the same beats as it’s predecessor. John returns home after taking back his vehicle and we learn why it was so vital for him to retrieve it–a card from his wife was left in the glove compartment. As John settles in and licks his wounds, he is disturbed by an old friend, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who apparently assisted him in his “impossible task” that allowed him to be free from his former life. The old associate calls upon John Wick to provide his contractually obligated favor in the form of assassinating his sister for a seat on the ominous “High Council.” When John refuses, his home is reduced to rubble, and he is forced to suit back up and oblige the request. This leads John down a violent path that has him clashing with assassins the world over, only to result in him once again seeking righteous vengeance.

The stylized approach to violence is poetic, as waves of surreal and fluid choreographed combat wash over you. It’s a symphony of blood and steel, and Reeves is the maestro. Never has pure carnage been so artfully crafted as it is here in John Wick: Chapter 2. The stunt background of the director pays huge dividends as Stahelski is able to navigate the aggression and fury in a way that transcend typical, and becomes fantastical, but still grounded in reality. This is a precise ballet of badassdom, and unapologetically harsh ferocity.

The supporting performances are all wonderfully fitting. From Ian McShane, returning as the head of the Continental hotel, to Lawrence Fishburne’s devilishly satiric “Bowery King,” every bit of the cast is the perfect contrast to Reeves aloof persona. The development is kept to a minimum and the film isn’t meant to be bogged down with pointless exposition, but the few breaks in the action we do get to breathe, are met with amusing asides between interesting new characters.

John Wick Chapter 2 is the perfect sequel. It broadens the scope of the original, but doesn’t get lost in trying to expand to a degree where it shatters its identity. The mythology behind this world of assassins is deepened, and yet John Wick remains firmly planted as our main anti-hero. The religious symbolism is veiled enough to keep all film goers intrigued, but it’s easy to see the connective tissue between Reeve’s Wick and the fallen angel Gabriel, who only creates evil to prevent more evil. While the story opened itself beyond the traditional tale of revenge, Stahelski remains focussed enough not to let the ancillary details overrun his film and never strays far from Wick’s motivations.

Chapter 2 does not match the emotional resonance that made the first John Wick so special, it does exceed its predecessor in sheer creativity, which is best exemplified by the very meta climax, which takes place inside of a modern art exhibit. This film is an unwavering tribute to action. With methodically shot choreographed sequences that sees few cuts, the violence is simply exquisite. The beauty lies in the simplicity, and John Wick is a simple movie, with simple motives, and yet has profoundly complex warfare that will leave you speechless.

3.95/5 Pretty Cool Bro

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