John Wick 2, the sequel to the smash hit from 2014 is a fasten-your-seat-belts kind of entertainer. So, what are you waiting for? Go, buckle up!
Genre :- Action/Crime
Run-time :- 2 hrs 2 mins.
Cast :- Keanu Reeves, Common, Riccardo Scamarcio, Laurence Fishburne, Ruby Rose, Bridget Moynahan, Lance Reddick, Franco Nero, John Leguizamo and Ian McShane
Director :- Chad Stehelski.
Plot – When Russian mafia killed his dog, Keanu Reeves’ retired hitman John Wick channeled his grief by battering and blasting about 100 goons to death. (Don’t worry, this time it’s not the dog. Also, the body count has gone significantly higher.) The ardent follower of code-of-conduct, Wick, has been dragged once more into a wild war when the nasty mafia Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls in an old favor. And this time, it is deadly and dangerous.
Direction and Screenplay :-
John Wick 2 has one of the finely directed opening chase-fight sequence ever. It’s so exhilarating, followed by our protagonist’s intro on stealing his Mustang: “It is not just a car! It is John Wick’s car. He once killed three men in a bar with a fuckin’ pencil!” Woaah! Stahelski, who has earlier doubled up for Reeves during Matrix, knows precisely how to customize action scenes for his leading man. He has beautifully combined an eye for lofty visual spectacle with a love for down-and-dirty fight choreography to make the film intriguing. Bullets fly like popcorn amidst spectacular displays of gun-fu, car-fu and hand-to-hand combat. The transition between long and medium shots is beautiful and helps in sustaining the art and brutality of the plot.
Screenplay by Derek Kolstad is not bad but that’s where this film takes a backseat. With an amazing backdrop, sound design and terrific performances, the only attribute the film lacks is character development. He nails the characterization by introducing a man who has seen and done many brutal things but whose sense of decorum is matchless, pauper mafia, mute but ferocious assassin, our hitman Wick who can go on a killing spree even for a not so killer reason. Absurdly Fascinating!
Editing and Cinematography :-
The Editing by Evan Schiff is fast paced with relevant frames. No typical madness of fast cutting is showcased here. (Unlike the last Action flick, ‘Resident Evil: Final Chapter’)
From its scenes backdropped by NYC’s great bridges to its gunfight in the Roman ruins, the Cinematography by Dan Lauststen makes you fall in love with art and architecture, as much as it does with ass kicking. And don’t you worry, there is plenty of both.
The background score by Tyler Bates is fresh, thoroughly engaging and adds to the intensity of the sequences.
The Highs –
▶ There’s always a chip on the shoulders of Action filmmakers regarding violence which could often become repetitive and numbing. Thankfully, this film’s makers know precisely when to impale the violence with comedy. There’s a very funny scene where Wick and a Cassian (Rival Hitman) take sneaky and silenced potshots at each other in a busy NY subway station, like school kids playing Dog-and-the-Bone at school.
▶ John makes you drool at him, as he gets suited up for the job, literally and figuratively. Director Chad Staheski, who fetishizes weapons and the various ways they are wielded, gives us Wick, who positively loves to kill people – through mirrors and waterfalls, with pencils and blades and guns, super fast and in slow-motion. Putting people to death is like usual for him, an innate art.
▶ Reeves doesn’t take Wick’s characterization much further than “pissed off” and “tired.” But he sells those qualities (which are a rarity in a genre that is increasingly populated by super powered man/woman) with combat skills set that can put the Super Heroes to shame.
▶ The climax, set in the hall of mirrors is such a dizzying arrangement of reflections that it’s impossible not to be drawn into the sophisticated choreography, entertaining at every turn.
▶ In the shaky-cam state of action cinema, (Ahem!) it’s amazing how the team of Chad Stahelski and Derek Kolstad frames the characters from head like dancers in an old Hollywood musical, reminding us that light, movement and kinetic energy are what cinema was originally supposed to be about.The stunts are wonderfully choreographed (so much that it can put great musicals like LA LA Land to shame. No kidding!) and brilliantly executed combat scenes are peppered throughout the film. Also, the stunts and action scenes are quite realistic. (When was the last time you saw a hitman reloading weapons?)
The Lows –
▶It’s more than fair to point out that fans may miss the emotionally driven and epic purity of its action-packed predecessor, but rest assured you are in for various amusing surprises which will make you go, “Whaaaat!?”
▶ Dialogues are a put off to the often superfluous interactions between Mr. Wick and his contemporary assassins. As the film progresses, you realize that our actor is better off without them.
▶ The sequel has gone wildly over the top with its own mythology with its golden coins and secret guilds.
▶In its predecessor, we saw a guy acting out his grief for his wife and dog. Here, all the happenings might leave you feeling cold, partly because all John Wick seems to care about is that ’69 Mustang.
▶Keanu Reeves is the best thing to have happened to this film. Look at him dodging bullets, firing endless rounds and narrowly escaping death with glorious athleticism in one can-you-beat-this sequence after another, and you will be blown at how this actor just *moves* and steals the show. (No I am serious. Cast him opposite Cruise in the next MI installment and watch the cinematic universe explode!) He is at his best when playing a mysterious man of few words. Plus the action scenes are almost believable as he is constantly reloading his weapons.
▶The Italian heartrob Riccardo Scamarcio as the antagonist Santino D’Antonio is impeccable and proves his mettle as an actor with his devilish persona.
▶Ian McShane as Winston is charmingly fatalistic, but has been given the most portent lines and he delivers them with style.
▶ Common as Cassian is the only hitman opposite Wick who is a delight to watch. The hand to hand combat and chase between Wick and Cassian seems balletic and surreal, you can’t decide whom to cheer for.
▶Ruby Rose plays a gender-fluid mute assassin, who steals every frame she shares with the chief antagonist. She will make you wonder where was she all this while when many action films were dumped because of the average action crew.
▶ Lance Reddick as the manager/receptionist of the Continental, is unflappable and upright. He shines in the little role allotted to him.
▶ Laurence Fishburne, Reeves’s co-star from the Matrix trilogy, is in the role of breakaway mobster with a rag army of his own. And man, does he slay it!
▶Peter Stormare is appropriate to play the leader of one end of the Russian mafia. And his delivery and expressions are a testament to that.
Watch o Not ? Yes. It is fast-paced, action-packed, cheeky at times and weirdly ferocious assassin film that deserves a watch.
Verdict : Any film that is designed around the same premise risks losing its novelty, but John Wick 2 goes on to prove that some applications don’t require an update. By sticking to the rules, this franchise may be infallible, no matter how much John resists his role in it by saying, “I am not that guy anymore.” Well, you are always that guy for us, John! Bring on the next chapter already!
Ratings – 4/5