John Wick Chapter 2 (2017) Review

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John Wick Chapter 2 (2017)

~Review by Grawlix (December 2017)

In the world of John Wick, every fifth person is an assassin. Every tenth business is a front for some sort of tactical service. There’s an entire shadow economy powered by gold coins and centered around a global hotel chain that serves as immutable neutral ground. I’ve played fps video games that put less emphasis on shooting people.

After the events of the first film, word gets around that John Wick is out of retirement. One of his old associates uses this opportunity to call in a favor, sealed in blood years before. Bound by honor and the esoteric rules of his underground society, Wick has no choice but to step up. The first half of John Wick 2 is Wick completing the contract. People get shot. The second half is the fallout from the contract’s completion, in which more people get shot. The denouement (and sequel announcement) promise even more people will be shot in the future. One has to assume that the end of the series will see John Wick as the only man left on Earth, with only his dog and his car for company, free at last.

If the last 20 minutes of Commando were stretched to feature length, you’d have John Wick, only with far greater emphasis on bullet counts and trigger discipline. If you expected anything else, then you haven’t been paying attention. Like the first movie, there is no fat on John Wick 2, and only the barest minimum of connective tissue.  Battles rage for twenty minutes or more, progressing from guns to knives to fists and back again, with only perfunctory pauses to pay lip service to more mundane considerations such as resupply, medical care and, occasionally, drink-sipping bar banter. John Wick has the simplest of motivations which are instantly relatable to anybody, but he suffers by the mere virtue of being too good at his job. Everybody either wants him to kill for them, or wants to kill him for killing someone else. Killing is the business of everyone in John Wick, and good lord is business good.

Anyone who dismisses this as mindless action is only half right. The action is not-stop, but the level of planning in both strategy and execution surpasses mere violence and pushes John Wick closer to true art. Director (and former stuntman) Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves clearly revel in this, featuring long takes whenever possible that showcase precision timing and extensive preparation.

Back in the nineties, director John Woo and star Chow Yun Fat redefined cinematic gunplay with a series of well received action movies including The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, and Hard Boiled. Critics took to calling them ‘bullet ballets’ for their exacting choreography and impressive body counts. The John Wick films proudly carry on this tradition. Yes, the enemies attack at perfectly timed intervals, always leaving just enough time for a reload or a dodge. Yes, John Wick always has just the right move to put him in just the right place. There’s even a pretty obvious callback to the house of mirrors finale of Enter the Dragon (which must have been a bitch to shoot, but boy does it look pretty). John Wick unreservedly embraces its action and, in doing so, effortlessly transcends it. As viewers, we have naught to do but sit back and bask in its splendor.

Final Score: A

More bullets, more bodies, more fun. John Wick 2 knows what it wants and knows how to get it. If only more movies could display such clarity of purpose.


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