John Wick: Chapter 2 | Chad Stahelski | February 10, 2017
“I’m back,” he says. In John Wick: Chapter 2, the sequel to the 2014 hit John Wick, Mr. Wick (Keanu Reeves) once again gets dragged back into the life he so desperately tried to escape. In essence, the plot is more of the same: excessive, ruthless European crime lords and gangsters vying for one-upmanship, hitmen and assassins allowed to do as they please. All as long as they don’t kill each other in the hotel that they sleep in (The Continental).
John Wick: Chapter 2 takes place right after the first one with Wick finishing off the New York Russian Mafia and finally getting his beloved mustang back. The peaceful life of Mr. Wick only lasts for so long. He is summoned by the head of the Camorra (Riccardo Scamarcio) to complete a task for him. This one cannot be ignored, as it’s a favor which is bound by blood (they do a really good job glamorizing the underworld in these films). He refuses. “That’s not me anymore,” he says, but in the world of high-end killers, one can only keep their back turned for so long.
Wick has no choice but the carry on with the mission and in doing so, will compromise his dreams of a violence-free life and could potentially collapse the enterprise that he once represented.
Rome is where the big hit takes place this time around, and director Chad Stahelski (who returns after directing the first installment) does a good job giving the old city some grittiness and a pulpy quality that elevated the night time landscape of New York City in the first one.
What’s so great about this sequel is that although they do shoot in elaborate settings, they keep the framework condensed and it never feels excessive. You’re very much absorbed into this world. With Wick 2, there’s saturation, but it’s so tightly wound with its intent, that as a viewer, you feel more focused on what you should be focusing on: the action, oh the action.
While most action movies focus on a kinetic, fast moving element, where the director showcases their skills in the art of trickery, Stahelski knows better. A former stuntman for Reeves turned director, Stahelski keeps the camera on Reeves at all times. There are no gimmicks, no flashiness. It’s all fluid gun ballet, and there is no better actor in Hollywood that can showcase the beautiful violence other than Keanu Reeves. At 52, it doesn’t seem like Reeves will be slowing down anytime soon. In comparison to older actors doing action ie Tom Cruise, Liam Neeson, what Reeves has over them is gracefulness, gravity, and realism.
In the movements of Wick, there is no excess, just precision, honed over time. A man so beaten and weathered, yet he can kill three men with a pencil. Wick’s movements never feel forced or cartoonish. He’s still human; when he gets hurt, you see it, you feel it. This display of action by Reeves can only be attained with experience and a passion for the genre. Reeves has dedicated years learning Judo, Jiu-Jitsu and the use of firearms. His physicality in “Wick,” is so effortless, that he’s reached some sort of nirvana, or zen that no other actor has achieved in action.
This brings me to the existential theme of Wick and Reeves. In Wick, he seems to find himself in limbo, going in and out of the crime business. This perfectly correlates to his career- is he a one-dimensional hack, or is he a star? Reeves knows this and has acknowledged the ups and downs in his career, but he has never put more effort into a movie than John Wick: Chapter 2. If he does call it quits, I’d hope he’d be remembered for these movies, because he has brought the “Heroic Bloodshed” genre to America and he has lifted it to another level.