Hey everyone, look whose back. John Wick! I talked about John Wick a couple weeks ago when I felt the need to revisit the film, and I still stand by the opinion that John Wick was one of the best action movies of the decade. It’s inventive, weird, colorful, and features some of the most insane and ingenious action setpieces I’ve ever seen. It’s an incredible film, and as soon as I saw it I knew that I needed more of it’s world in my life. So of course I was going to be excited when I heard that they were making a sequel. And that excitement increased tenfold when I started to hear some early reviews of the movie, and some critics were saying that it may have been even better than the original. This seemed like kind of a ridiculous statement, but the thing people kept going back to was the idea that if you enjoyed all the weird world-building of the first movie, everything with the elaborate world of crime, that you would like this movie even more, because it jumps fully into that insane universe and revels in it. And folks, that weird world that the first film created may have been my favorite part of John Wick. That movie crafted a unique and bizarre world from whole cloth and left me wanting more. So the idea that this movie delivered the same level of crazy action and pushed it’s insane world even further made me very excited. And it did not disappoint.
John Wick: Chapter 2 starts off basically exactly where the last film ended, with John still taking down the Russian mob. He’s trying to find his missing car, which has been taken by the brother of the mob leader from the first film, and he starts mowing down Russian goons like the good old days. For a brief moment I thought that this movie was going to be a John Wick version of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure where he just travels around trying to find his car, but that was just a little cold open before we get to the ridiculous real plot. Because once he gets his car John heads home, plays with his new dog, and buries all of his assassin stuff in the basement again. Which is right when his doorbell rings and he’s dragged back into the criminal world. John’s visitor is a man named Santino D’Antonio who is a member of a powerful Italian crime family. Apparently Santino helped John in the past, and John became in his debt. And now Santino is calling in that debt. Apparently the world of crime is run by several crime families around the world, called the High Table, and Santino’s father was a member. He’s died, and has given the empire to Santino’s sister Gianna. And Santino would like John to kill Gianna for him so he can take over this father’s empire. John refuses this, insisting that he’s done with murder again. Santino does not care for this response, and decides to blow up John’s house.
This spurs John to bring his dog and head back into the city to visit the Continental Hotel again, and visit with Winston the Manager. Winston tells him that the only way to let this whole thing blow over is to do what Santino wants, and then fall back into obscurity. So John bites the bullet, flies to Rome, and gets ready to kill Gianna. He visits the Continental in Rome, goes to a tailor who gives him a bullet-proof suit, buys guns from some sort of gun sommelier, and talks to a historian who gives him blueprints of the D’Antonio estate. John heads into the catacombs of the estate during a coronation celebration for Gianna, and then proceeds to sneak in and find her personal room. The two talk for a bit, and Gianna decides to kill herself rather than have John do the deed. So, contract’s done! Which is when Santino sends his army of goons, lead by the mute Ares, to kill John. This then leads to John realizing that now that the debt is repaid, he’s clear to kill Santino. Thus begins John Wick murdering his way through waves and waves of Santino’s goons, until Santino realizes he needs to step things up. So he sets out a hit on John, offering $7 million to whoever can kill John. We then get a veritable Street Fighter game of insane assassins going after John, including Gianna’s former bodyguard Cassian, who has taken John’s survival as a personal insult. But, since this is a John Wick movie, he manages to defeat them all, fighting his way through a series of crazy set-pieces, all until he corners Santino in the Continental. Unfortunately you can’t kill people in the Continental, otherwise you get excommunicated from the the world of crime. And this is apparently worth it to John, because he shoots Santino, accepts his excommunication, and heads out into the world with the knowledge that he still has a bounty on his head, and has nowhere to turn to now.
This movie is a hell of a good time. I watched it with a grin plastered on my face basically the whole time. Sequels are often really hard to get right, because they’ve got to try and top the original without going too far and becoming a parody of the first movie. And this flick somehow succeeds in doing that. Because this wasn’t just a retread of the first movie, which is kind of what I thought was going to happen. The through-line of revenge was still present, but it was a much larger scale. The action was still just as absurd, and featured such crazy set-pieces as the fight with Common where they fight and fall down stairs and a ridiculous gun-battle inside a hall of mirrors. And it wasn’t just the action, really everything about this film worked for me. It was shot beautifully, full of amazing colors and frenetic but followable scenes, and just about everyone killed it in this movie. Keanu continued to be terrific as the stoic and tortured Wick, but all of the new-comers were great as well. I’ve been a big fan of Common’s acting work, and he was delightful as Cassian. Ruby Rose’s Ares was a whole bundle of weird character traits, but she was a goddamn joy, dominating every scene she was in. Laurence Fishburn was kind of all over the place as a weird ‘King of the Hobos’ type character, but he was a lot of fun, and it was great to see him and Keanu in a film together again. All in all it was just a really well-made and fun action flick.
But the thing that really stood out about the movie to me, was exactly what the reviewers had said. It had the same amount of action as the first film, but took the foundation of the world-building that the first film did and ran with it. I know this movie may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, especially if they were just looking for another crazy action movie and not exactly seeking out the examination of the political structure of Crime World. But I dug the hell out of it. I’m obsessed with the fact that these films aren’t based on anything, and are completely created for the films, because the world that they’ve created is so elaborate and fascinating that I would legitimate read novels about how this world functions. Learning about the High Table, the system of Continental Hotel’s around the world, and the vast organizations that spread from the two. We get to see the call-center where hits are called into, we get to see a huge group-text informing all of the assassins about a hit, and learn about Laurence Fishburn’s network of hobo spies. And yet there’s still plenty we don’t understand. There’s more backstory that remains vague, aspects of the world that haven’t been uncovered, and plenty more dots to connect. And that’s what’s going to keep me coming back. The action and direction of these films are tremendous, but the thing that really clicks with me about them is the world-building, and this movie proves that they aren’t going to be dropping it anytime soon.
John Wick: Chapter 2 was written by Derek Kolstad, directed by Chad Stahelski, and released by Summit Entertainment, 2017.
Categories: Reel Talk