February 10, 2017.
There’s a scene in the second John Wick where we see him fighting two highly trained assassins armed with just a pencil. Nothing else. Just a HB 2 pencil. The pencil scene in this movie makes the one in The Dark Knight look like child’s play. My mouth dropped and my body shivered watching Keanu Reeves’ badassery unfold. No explosions, no guns, just a man and a pencil. That’s when you know you have an amazing action movie. John Wick: Chapter 2 is just as good if not better than the first film, and will be hailed as a decade defining action film/franchise.
John Wick: Chapter 2 stars Keanu Reeves as our titular protagonist and is directed by former stuntman Chad Stahelski. It picks up about two weeks after the first film where Wick has to (violently) take back his beloved Mustang from Russian Gangsters. The first movie is an essential watch before seeing Chapter 2. (It is currently on Netflix as of right now and you should check it out if you have not seen it already.) The plot of this film focuses on another key element from Wick’s past that won’t leave him no matter how many times he claims that he is out of the game. The story here is used as a crutch for it’s insane action scenes and incredible set-pieces. Granted, the plot in the first film was simple and dumb but it did have real emotion attached to it. The overall story in Chapter 2 feels forced. There was little to no tie ins from the original that really set up Chapter 2. It just kind of happens. However; this is a minor flaw I have with the movie, and does not take away the best aspects: the action scenes, and Keanu Reeves.
The action in this movie is ballistic. Stahelski is a former stuntman, and he knows how to properly film an action scene. There is no unbearable shaky cam. There is not rapid fire editing where every punch has eight different cuts. The camera shows us the action from a distance, and when it gets in close you can still understand everything that is going on. John Wick must have over 100 confirmed kills in this movie. It’s bonkers how many headshots there are. One of my favorite scenes is this montage near the end where there is a 7 million dollar bounty on John and he essentially has to kill every hitman in the world. It provides humour with the kills, but still manages to be totally badass. (You get to see John in a 1v1 against a 500 pound Yakuza boss.) John Wick is like a hybrid of The Terminator, Rambo, and John McClane. He doesn’t talk a lot, and looks like a pretty average guy, but he is in my opinion the most badass action hero of all time.
The reason I like John Wick so much is because he’s very similar to John McClane from Die Hard. He actually receives pain from his fights, and does not feel like an indestructible man. All his kills feel earned. When he proclaims, “I’ll kill them all” to Ian McShane’s character, we believe that he will, but we know he’s going to have a hell of a time pulling it off though.
Keanu Reeves as John Wick is easily his best role since Neo from The Matrix. Reeves is quiet and subtle, and he plays Wick with a certain sadness that helps the audience understand the trauma of the character. I’m not totally sure if he did most of his stunts, but it sure looked like it. From a first look, Wick looks nothing like a godlike, invincible assassin. But the fights are choreographed so well (albeit a little repetitive) that you know he is a master hitman with years of training. Ian McShane is great as always returning in the role of Winston, the manager of the United States Continental Hotel. (It’s pretty much an assassin’s hangout where “business” is prohibited.) McShane brings a sort of filthy elegance to the role. We know he is a former hitman, but he does not let anybody ruin the integrity of his hotel. Ruby Rose plays a mute bodyguard/assassin to the main antagonist of the movie played by Riccardo Scamarcio. Rose should star in a lot more action films, as she is the perfect balance of badass and sexy. Scamarcio on the other hand was fine in his role, but the most underwhelming of the main cast. The acting in John Wick 2 is obviously not Oscar worthy, but for the type of movie they’re starring in they do a phenomenal job.
I must reiterate, the action in this movie is some of the best I have ever seen. It’s like they took the nightclub scene from the first film and showered it all over the second. Minus Wick’s repetitive take down move, everything feels fresh. Every headshot feels fresh. You never get bored of it. That’s a huge compliment for an action movie. Every scene is totally badass. The ending is nuts. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it sets up the third installment to look like the craziest action movie in the history of cinema. It’s beautiful. Just get past the bland story, focus on the acting and action scenes, and I guarantee you will have an amazing time.