By Chris Campo
It's safe to say the original John Wick shocked everyone who saw it. I, for one, was taken off guard by how truly unique and exquisitely shot it was. I loved it upon first viewing, slowly climbing up over the years to become one of my all time favourite action films. It's safe to say that the expectations for the sequel were through the roof. John Wick: Chapter 2 was just as anticipated for me as a huge superhero movie or summer blockbuster because, just like those movies, my experience tonight at the cinema was full of cheers, screams and thunderous applause. John Wick: Chapter 2 is an experience I will never forget.
The film opens mere hours after the events of its predecessor's finale. John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the hunt for his car that was stolen in the first movie. The cuts and bruises we last saw him with last time remain, but he's just as efficient as ever at taking lives. Fast forward a day, Wick (literally) buries his past and settles to live the rest of his life besides his new dog. Unfortunately, John is visited by an old friend, Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who greets him with what is called a marker. Because John is given this marker, he's forced under blood oath to carry out one last mission.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is not only unbelievably brutal, it's relentlessly entertaining, crafted with a tangible care and skill. It's the best action film since Mad Max: Fury Road, and like Fury Road, it's easily one of the best action sequels ever made. Like most sequels, it finds a way to put the protagonist in a new adventure, but what most sequels don't do is expand the universe these characters live in. Chapter 2 manages to flesh out this world known as The Continental, which was introduced to us in the first film. For the most part, it's expanded flawlessly. As the film attempts to flesh out so many things, some can get lost in translation or hard to follow, and some elements come off as rushed.
I can't write one more word without stopping to praise this film's action. A few weeks ago, I saw a movie called "Sleepless" with Jamie Foxx (Jack Note: Film Hits Aussie Theatres Next Week So Expect A Review Soon), and all I can recall from that otherwise forgettable film was the shaky, edited-to-hell, and nauseating action scenes. It's a reason I fear action movies, because most of the time, we only see this awful style of filming action that has become the norm. Chapter 2, like the original, chooses a different route and ends up containing some of, if not the best gun-fights ever put to the silver screen. The combat scenes are so damn cool. Every single action set-piece is not only different, but inventive and shot breathtakingly. My jaw was properly dropped during the climactic showdown in an art museum.
This film is brutal, it's as simple as that. There is so much bloodshed, it's damn near impossible to count the bodies that hit the floor. In the first film, we hear stories about how brutal John Wick can be, and we see it in that film, but here, my word. John Wick is a machine in this movie. The chaotic way he blasts through those who oppose him is wildly crowd-pleasing. There's a moment in the film involving a pencil, and my audience was screaming in horror, while also cheering. There's a lot of brutality in the film, its FAR more violent than the original, but somehow it never becomes numbing, or too much. Towards the third act, however, things can get over the top, and not everything feels as grounded as before, which will surely take some people out of it.
Chapter 2 is bigger. badder, bloodier, but it's also funnier. Although the story can go to rather dark places, the film knows when to pump the breaks and laugh at itself a little. There's a scene with Common's character in a public subway that just may be one of the strangest, but funniest things I have ever seen in an action film. Never does the humour feel out of place. The tone is pretty solid. With the film juggling so much, it would be no surprise if the script buckled under it's own weight, but it doesn't. The writing may not be as slick as the original, but it's still an above average script with a whole lot of interesting characters.
We're introduced to a lot of characters in this film, and see a few familiar faces, and pretty much everyone does a fine job. It goes without saying that Keanu Reeves has found the character he was born to play in John Wick. Reeves is so passionate and committed to this character, his enthusiasm bleeds off screen. While the main antagonist, played by Riccardo Scamarcio, is a decent action villain, his right-hand-woman, played by Ruby Rose, is the stand-out as far as bad guys go. Nobody in this film is giving an Oscar worthy performance, but everyone is having fun, especially Laurence Fishburne. It was cool to see the pseudo Matrix reunion, but Fishburne has a lot of fun in the small role he has. If John Wick: Chapter 3 happens, which this film sets up, seeing more Fishburne would be at the top of my wish-list Oh, and John Wick's dog in this film is a good boy, give him an Oscar.
Overall, I think John Wick is a better film than Chapter 2, only by a slim margin, but there is no denying this is still one of the best action sequels ever made. It ups the action in ways I didn't think it would and introduces colourful new characters to the world. Hats off to the director, I can't wrap my head around how he managed to film some of the action sequences we see. I cannot wait for the third chapter of John Wick. Hell, I'll take ten more of these films. They're perfect action movies.
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