Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Ruby Rose, Common, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan
Rated: R (strong violence throughout, some language and brief nudity.)
John Wick: Chapter 2
By Matt Greene
Only 2 films in, the “Wick” franchise is already a better version of what the Fast / Furious movies aim to be: over-the-top, silly action extravaganzas. Highly stylized, committed and just-self-aware-enough, it walks its bloody-tightrope between parody and sincerity with nearly as much skill as Wick has for killing baddies. While not as qualitatively surprising as its predecessor, Chapter 2 is still a brutally exciting and smartly hilarious romp.
We open with Wick tying up some loose-ends from his last vengeance-fueled rampage. A 15-minute barrage of blood and high-stakes bumper cars, it took everything within me not to fist-pump a dozen times right away. As long as he’s not trying to emotionally connect with his costars, Reeves is great. He and director Stahelski give us fights and chases that are just so much better than much of what America produces. From the humorous use of random weapons to the quiet nonchalance of a mall shoot-out to the climactic combat in a house-of-mirrors, it won’t leave you wanting.
From there, we’re given a relatively contained narrative about John being dragged back in to this wonderfully mysterious world of suit-cladded, manners-following, rule-abiding assassins. It’s a cliché, but the world-building really is great, getting into the minutiae and aftermath of the movie violence we’re often immune to.
All this made me wonder: maybe THIS is the American answer to Bond. Not Bourne, not Hunt, not Reacher; Wick. He fights with efficiency, he broods with purpose, he’s appropriately lauded and feared, and Reeves (while great) doesn’t “own” the character. And as long as these films stay this insanely fun, I welcome a future spending multiple hours in John Wick’s gleefully violent world.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
John Wick: Chapter 2
By Cole Schneider
This burgeoning John Wick franchise shares a lot of surface similarities with other big action franchises like Mission Impossible or the Matrix films, but I see something more classical in its roots. The operatic tone, violent splashes, and truncated dialogue probably have more in common with the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood collaborations than anything else. “John Wick: Chapter 2” is especially similar to their second installment, “For a Few Dollars More”. Against his best wishes, Mr. Wick (played with an Eastwood-esque plasticity and grit by Keanu Reeves) is pulled back into his old life and tasked with a new assassination, very similar to the somewhat reluctant bounty hunter role from the famous Italian western.
The action in “John Wick: Chapter 2” is quick, brutal, and choreographed as an elegant dance. The titular protagonist is quiet, dangerous, and reflective. The setting is both familiar and strange, like other films in its genre, but just a hair askew. The cinematography is relaxed and meditative yet kinetic and showy.
Those aren’t apt descriptions of “Mission Impossible”, or even the gun-fu films of Eastern cinema with which it shares so much, but each of those descriptions would certainly apply to the hallowed Dollars trilogy from Leone and Eastwood. Add in a few spurts of inventive physical comedy, themselves throwbacks to classic artists like Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati, plus a whole lot of modern blockbuster appeal and John Wick is a franchise on the verge of some very high heights.
It’s a very young 2017, one begging for hyperbole, but “John Wick: Chapter 2” is the best movie of the year!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars