Did you see and like the first John Wick film from 2014? If so, close this browser window quickly and urgently—X out of the window; shut your laptop lid; destroy your tablet with a single, perfectly placed bullet; or even stab your smartphone with a pencil—then use a burner phone to order a ticket for the sequel with haste.
For the rest of you or for those less smitten with the first entry in the revenge-action series, I will do my best to implore you to see this film without spoiling its bloody majesty. John Wick Ch. 2 is a dizzying, enjoyable mess of guns, cars, knives, more guns, and martial arts, but it’s also an incredible example of how an action-film director can position so many disparate elements—scenery, cast, tension, pacing, and cinematography—to make filmmaking excellence look so easy.
They pull Wick back in
John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, opens this sequel with one thing on his mind: tying up a loose end. The original film documented Wick, a retired, legendary hitman, returning to his murderous roots after having his civilian life turned upside down by Russian mobsters. That film also spent a decent amount of time building up Wick’s desire for revenge (and his ability to kill pretty much anything he wants to). With that out of the way, Wick 2 wastes no time punching its foot on the action accelerator.
After wrapping up that earlier quest and enjoying a brief moment of solace, Wick finds himself in an entirely different pickle, all thanks to an Italian man named Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). Turns out, when Wick wanted to retire a few years back, he called in a pretty dark favor from D’Antonio, and this leaves our hero with one more debt to clear. “I didn’t want to do this,” D’Antonio insists, but he’s clearly desperate—as proven by his quick shift from a casual conversation over espresso to whipping out a grenade launcher.
Thus, Wick embarks on a journey that is similar to its predecessor—but only in the fact that Wick is on a mission to kill a specific target (and anybody who dares get in his way). What’s intriguing here is that the feel of this murderous journey is changed so drastically by his motivation: paying a debt, instead of exacting revenge. Reeves milks this distinction pretty successfully and without necessarily saying all that much, since Wick isn’t exactly a chatty guy. His tone, word choice, and interactions with fellow hitmen and other underworld “allies” play out very differently when Wick is driven by something other than blind rage. The distinction adds a surprising weight to the proceedings.
Nowhere is this more evident than when Wick faces off against another hitman named Cassian (Common). The two clearly have a history, though it remains largely unexplained, and their respectfully adversarial relationship is a major highlight throughout the film. Common’s charisma and steely-eyed demeanor shine in equal parts in this role, and it’s tense and fun to watch him play off of Reeves—especially when they want to, but cannot, trade blows. I’m still reeling from their most climactic moment.
Like John Wick before it, Ch. 2 benefits from a stellar ensemble cast, with some known characters returning in satisfying ways and other brand-new ones filling in some very interesting gaps about Wick’s past as a hitman. (One of these allies, who hands Wick a freakin’ Kimber .45 ACP, will be particularly satisfying for anybody who’s watched Reeves’ career for a long time.) Whether Wick is visiting a sommelier who happens to stock “vintage” guns or seeking help from a network of underground soldiers, he always seems to run into an actor at the top of his or her game.
A medium-rare ribeye of action
But, yes, you’ve come here for the action.
Wick 2 continues the first film’s tradition of longer shots, opting to avoid jarring cuts and edits wherever possible. Once more, director and longtime stunt supervisor Chad Stahelski lets incredible action setpieces play out with the only emphasis coming naturally from how fists, feet, and bullets fly. Unlike his stunt work in The Matrix, Stahelski doesn’t use wires or slowdown tricks to augment his chaotic scenes.
Think of it this way: John Wick does things in real time that The Matrix‘s Neo needed to freeze time to pull off. That held true last film, and it’s only more intense this go-round. I noticed a few fights in which the camera was zoomed tightly to Reeves so that I couldn’t see how slowly his enemies approached him from the opposite side of the camera, but I was too mesmerized by his martial arts mastery and accurate gun fire to care. Wick has a knack for finding headshots with the greatest of ease—and Stahelski makes sure the camera is pointed in such a way that everything looks perfectly aimed and triggered. Reeves also spends a lot of the film injured, which makes his Rambo-like invincibility easier to root for. Somehow he’s able to sell that pain while flipping foes over his shoulders and individually snapping many of their necks and limbs.
A couple of scenes fall into a cookie-cutter category of “open floor, everybody gets shot” sequences, but most benefit from dramatic lighting and beautiful framing. Whether Wick is tearing through a goth-metal concert at a Roman palace or trying to survive a perilous walk through subway platforms, he and his bloody antics are always framed in succulent fashion. (Don’t even get me started on the final battle, which plays out like a Euro-trash funhouse of violent comeuppance.)
Wick Ch. 2 is a rare kind of sequel—one that doesn’t render its predecessor redundant, but that answers the question of why the series should keep going. As fun as the 2014 movie was, it only feels like an appetizer compared to Ch. 2‘s main course: a medium-rare ribeye. It’s juicy, it’s tender, and it’s bloody—and it’s a welcome cinematic escape.
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: The righteous violence we so desperately need right now have 1288 words, post on arstechnica.com at February 10, 2017. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.