“I’ll kill them all.”
This is it. This is the single line that lies at the crux of everything John Wick does. Wherever he travels or even shows up, people end up dying by the dozens. Just like its predecessors, fortunately, the sequel to the hit movie acts as another breath of fresh air.
Watch any action film of the modern era and be prepared to be bombarded by jump cuts and choppy editing. Add a dash of shaky cam and random grunts to that and voila, you have an action scene. There is a scene in Taken 3 in which all Liam Neeson does is jump over a fence. That scene alone consists of 14 cuts if my count is correct. It could be wrong, but my point is clear to all who are willing to see it.
John Wick: Chapter 2 – Movie Review
There is a certain art to making an action movie. Unlike the aforementioned movies, it takes great pain and skill to render a decent action scene. Creating a scene of even greater quality is a task best left to the masters. Think John Wu or Gareth Edwards, in case you were looking for examples. John Wick: Chapter 2 succeeds wildly in this regard. It is as good as, even a tad better than its previous film and in almost every way possible.
Every action sequence flows as smoothly as possible with almost no snapping editorial cuts or movements too fast for the viewer to see. Brutality is the order of the day with every gunshot, punch, kick to the gut, and stab feeling real. The ‘hero’ of the movie is not invincible and has to work hard to get his mark. The phrase ‘working hard’, here, would mean going through 37 men with Glocks, assault rifles, shotguns, knives, and finally, bare fists. If and when that doesn’t work, there’s always the random broken bottle or glass but no. The violence doesn’t stop there. Watch John massacre individuals with every weapon known to man, right down to using a pencil in ways you will never wish to.
The choreography is the highlight of the movie. Never once does a fight or shootout feel too choreographed or even a little unrealistic. Wick is a force to reckon with and Keanu Reeves sells it with every fiber in his body. It is clear that he did a lot of stunts himself and that makes the experience even better. This is a brilliant action movie that lives up to all expectations. But that isn’t all that’s going for it.
The performances in this movie along with the surreal world that was first glimpsed in the first movie are put to full use here. There are Continental hotels all around the world, providing refuge to assassins and the like. There is a switchboard you can call, to open an ‘account’ for someone, in case you want them dead. Get maps and information at antique shops, bulletproof suits at tailors, and the odd weapon shop. The historically rich setup is complete with blood oaths, rule books and to top it all, a ‘High Table.’ It is the almost comic book-like treatment of this assassin universe that adds to this movie’s glamour and mystery.
As mentioned above, the performances are on point. Keanu Reeves is reliable as ever as the assassin everyone is scared to death of. He is a man of few words, letting only his guns and fists do the talking. But you can see the storm raging inside of him, the rage and sadness over everything that happens in the film. Ian McShane is back as the manager, but like almost everyone else, he has little to do. Still, he shines in the few scenes he has, but then, doesn’t he always? Riccardo Scamarcio plays the main antagonist but his role is paper thin, along with his character, and does little other than to provide a target for John. Laurence Fishburne’s role is probably the most interesting of all the third-tier characters in this film and I hope there’s more of him in future films.
Common and Ruby Rose, on the other hand, serve to be a true foil to John. Common plays his role to perfection, of the assassin who is out for payback. He doesn’t have much in the way of character development or anything else, for that matter. But he makes his mark in all his scenes with Reeves. A good example would be the scene in the subway, which is probably the highlight of the movie. The same goes for Ruby Rose, doing what she does best. It’s always a treat to watch her and it is here, with her playing a mute assassin. One can only wish that her final fight with John had been a little better.
I do wish the movie had done more for its lead character though. All beautiful action aside, what really sold the first movie was the anger we felt along with John. There is little of that sort here. There are glimpses of the fury he feels but that’s all there is. If only the struggle for him to come back into the assassinating ways was pronounced, it would have made for a rewarding experience when the film finally ends. It could be argued that this was the point – John Wick is a killer and he belongs here. But the movie never makes that distinction, leaving the audience to decide for themselves. Maybe the sequel is going to have something to say about that. Fingers crossed.
Overall, the movie does what is promised. It delivers a rewarding and pulse-pounding action experience and a kill count that would put John McClane to shame. If you’re an action movie buff, you should watch it. Even if you’re not, this movie does offer more than just one action set piece after the other, even if it comes up a little short on some fronts.