Monday, February 13, 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  This movie is basically like being punched in the face by awesome incarnate.



John Wick:  Chapter 2 – 4 out of 5

I’m an unapologetic fan of Keanu Reeves.  I always hear people slam the guy for not being a most excellent actor (and I won’t deny there are some roles he clearly wasn’t right for) but for the most part I’ve discovered that he’s been the right pick for the right movie.  I mean, the guy has been able to be both the chosen one in a new era cyber punk action extravaganza and be a party dude who travels through time in a phone booth—not to mention he was also paid by the FBI to surf.  If you remember my review for John Wick (and if you don’t, it’s here), I absolutely LOVED the film.  When the sequel was announced, I was all-in and didn’t need a trailer to sell me on it.  I was such a fan of the first film that John Wick:  Chapter 2 was one of those films where I will make the time and spend the cash to see this one opening weekend in the theater—and boy, it sure lived up to my expectations and the standard set by the first one.

                                                               Summit Entertainment
Oh man, imagine a John Wick video game that had the fight
mechanics of the Batman Arkham games!

After the events of the first film, retired hitman John Wick (Reeves) is seeking to return to his quiet life but crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) needs him for another job and is calling in a huge favor to get it.  You see, Santino was the man who made it possible for John to leave the assassin life behind and now he is using that as leverage to get John to kill his sister (Claudia Gerini).  With his sister out of the way, Santino will be able to take her seat among the rest of the crime lords.  When there’s no other options left, John accepts the job only to learn that he may not get out of this one alive.

                                                                                                 Summit Entertainment
But, in fairness, a lot more bad guys won't get out alive either.

John Wick:  Chapter 2 doesn’t try to change the formula but, at the same time, isn’t doing what a lot of sequels will do and just try to rehash what you’ve already seen.  Sure, it’s still an action extravaganza with Reeves kicking ass and popping off an insane amount of headshots but rather than have a story where his motivations are the same as last time (Spoiler Alert:  We don’t have to see a dog die this time) we have a story that is expanding on his journey of trying to be an assassin who is out of the game and the previous events that ended up forcing him back in and onto a path of vengeance.

                                                                                                 Summit Entertainment
"Here, have a cookie."

One thing I really enjoyed about this movie is how they develop the reality that Wick exists in.  We already knew why he left the job behind but in this one we see the actual cost of doing so.  Additionally, the film also expands and develops the organization that he is a part of and does so in a way that is very amusing and endlessly interesting.  For example, a mini-Matrix reunion takes place as Laurence Fishburne plays a unique character from Wick’s past and his involvement in the organization is incredibly unique and really turns this whole crime syndicate into something a little more entertaining than just your run-of-the-mill crime lord stuff you usually see in movies of this sort.  Finally, what I really enjoy about how they develop this reality is the way everything unfolds.  Never does the movie resort to lazy exposition where they are basically explaining the whole company to the viewer but rather we, as an audience, are put into the middle of it and context and dialogue clues allows for the development to take place.  It really made me intrigued with how this organization worked and really makes me want to learn more in the potential third film.

                                                                         Summit Entertainment
John Wick is such a badass that just this stern look he has knocked
three people over and prepared their skulls for the impending bullets.

Similar to the first film, Chapter 2 has another great cast of actors who all feel perfect for their roles.  The returning members like Reeves, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and John Leguizamo all do their jobs perfectly (although Leguizamo has an even smaller part than last time).  This go-around Reeves feeling like an even bigger badass and that ain't a bad thing at all.  New additions to the cast like having Ruby Rose and Common as fellow hitman really add some extra badassery (totally a word) to the film’s already bubbling badass broth.  The film also has some great bit parts played by Peter Serafinowicz and (one of my favorite character actors) Peter Stormare.  Finally, the film’s antagonist played by Scamarcio has the right flare in his performance to be a new, modern era crime lord.

                                                                                                 Summit Entertainment
The moment I saw Peter Serafinowicz I started to giggle...because I thought
about how funny he was in Spy.

Now, the heart of this film is the action because the first film delivered ultra-slick, hyper cool and fast pace action as Wick grappled, kicked, punched and shot his way towards revenge.  Hell, he literally hit a guy with his car and shot him through the roof as he rolled over the vehicle—that is just awesome.  Basically, the bar was set high and this one did not fail to meet those standards.  This time around, John is taking on even more people and it is presented with tight editing and music that fits exceptionally.  Actually, there doesn’t even have to be music because they even play with that formula and have a brawl between Wick and Common’s character and it is brutally awesome to watch.  Another nice approach to the budding Wick franchise is how the film does not comply with modern action film tropes and never relies on shaky cams to put the viewer into the action.  Director Chad Stahelski is able to work angles and frame the action in ways that you are right there watching John pummel people and put a bullet into their grey matter but never are distracted by blurry movements and an inability to make out what is happening that is often seen with an over-reliance on shaky cams—all the while taking place in locales that are as interesting and as unique as the fighting occurring.

                                                                                               Summit Entertainment
I guess being hunted down by Ruby Rose isn't a bad thing...
I would actually be really okay with it.

As much as I enjoyed this film, it is not without a drawback.  For the most part, I found this film to be a perfect example of a very entertaining action film.  You have a badass lead character, sweet action that is capable of throwing in some amusing gags on occasion, and a terrific cast but there was one point I feel the film fell a bit flat with and that was the antagonist of Santino D’Antonio.  While the feature does do a great job of establishing who his is in relation to John’s past and does a fantastic job at delivering the motivation for him to do this job, the story does falter with establishing the character’s own motive.  While it’s easily understood why he wants John to knock off his sister, the very stakes of this man taking her place never really feels like it has any weight to it.  A single threatening line is given about the implications of him in power but it’s never really developed on because the story changes focus and it becomes about Santino taking care of John.  Ultimately, however, this is a very minor complaint and did little to stop me from enjoying myself with my gigantic tub of popcorn at the theater.  All it did was push this from 5 out of 5 to a still very great rating of 4 out of 5.

                                                                                                 Summit Entertainment
Even a master assassin has to take his dog out for walkies.

Overall, I found John Wick:  Chapter 2 to be another exciting and engaging action film that is far more satisfying than most sequels usually end up being.  While I didn’t find it as impeccable as the film that started this all, I think it lands insanely close to it.  Additionally, with the incredible ending it provides, it promises a third film of immense proportions.

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