Yeah. I’d say he’s back. And with a vengeance.
It’s rare for a sequel to rival its predecessor…and even more seldom does it outshine it. But in Chapter 2, Director Chad Stahelski steps up the action, the gun-play, the body count and the story line.
This film gives us a deeper look into the mysterious world of assassins introduced in the original. It’s a respectable, well-mannered and frighteningly deadly hierarchy of cool-headed bosses, puppeteers and professional killers with its own economy and strict code of conduct. All of this expertly laid out for the audience with minimal verbal explanation. A world of honor and severe repercussions for breaking your word. A world that John is having some serious trouble escaping.
Outside of the genuinely compelling story line, Chapter 2 offers some impeccable action scenes that are a combination of amazingly choreographed stunt work and expertly executed CGI. The cinematography is absolutely incredible. Cleverly angled shots keep the action feeling intense and fresh while a marked lack of cuts keeps the viewer right in the thick of things. We’re talking heart pumping, edge of your seat action from the opening credits onward. It’s so well done, in fact, you’ll be recoiling in the theater. Some of the kill scenes especially are grotesque, but still beautifully shot….pun intended!
Speaking of beauty – let’s discuss the scenery! Much of Chapter 2 takes place in Rome – a city notorious for mysterious catacombs and passageways. Black-suited figures slice through the darkness amid muzzle blasts and, between punches the walls and ceilings are splashed with beams from flashlights. The contrasting imagery of the Roman architecture, complete with crumbling walls and shadowy tunnels, and the sleek, modern gunfighter provide a compelling juxtaposition. And the opulence of the underground assassin world serves as the bridge between the two. The Continental – the apparently international assassin hotel introduced in Chapter 1 – provides a unique marriage of the two worlds and creates a reality all its own.
Where this movie really shines, however, is in its stunts and choreography. Stahelski’s background in stunt coordination is clearly evident. Keanu Reeves’s 3-gun training – a skill set focused on transitioning effortlessly between a triad of firearms – is the crux of his character. Wick makes expert use of each weapon platform and his tactical and emergency reloads are a gun enthusiast’s wet dream come true. The lack of cuts we mentioned earlier allows the audience to vividly see the fantastic gun manipulation techniques exacted with the precision that resulted from Reeve’s intense real world training.
A fun little tidbit for those who weren’t aware: Director Chad Stahelski actually started his career in Hollywood as a stunt man. As a matter of fact, he was Keanu Reeve’s stunt double for much of his action career including Point Break, The Matrix Series, The Replacements and Constantine! (And a piece of nerdy trivia: he was also the Stunt Coordinator for Serenity!)
With its creation of an incredibly deep and dangerous world, gorgeous color and shots, and spectacular stunts that rival even the likes of Fury Road, John Wick: Chapter 2 is without doubt one of the best action flicks in recent memory. Watch it. Then go watch it again. We certainly will.