John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
Back in 2014, John Wick breathed an air of freshness into the Hollywood action category that was on the sidelines for far too long and hadn’t produced a single memorable action flick in years. Nearly everything about that action thriller was downright invigorating, whether it’s the action choreography, the otherworldly setting, or the eponymous character himself. Helmed by stunt coordinators who certainly knew a thing or two about how to stage an action segment and make it look great, the resulting picture brimmed with so much style, charisma & energy that nearly every action aficionado embraced it with open arms. On top of that, it marked a welcome return to form for Keanu Reeves and revitalised his career with a role that was tailor-made for him.
Now I have always been skeptical about sequels. I strongly believe that it has no reason to exist if it cannot do a better job than the original. To improve upon the predecessor, to present significant upgrades in all filmmaking aspects, to further expand the universe its story is set in, and to aim for a bigger, better & far more ambitious showcase, all without discarding the elements that made the original so great, should be the reasons why a sequel should exist, or else it’s nothing but a mere cash-grab that adds nothing but a dent to the first chapter’s legacy. John Wick: Chapter 2 begins where its predecessor signed off and accomplishes every single thing mentioned above to deliver an action extravaganza that will leave its viewers gasping for breath.
John Wick: Chapter 2 continues the relentless journey of the extremely notorious assassin as he ties up all the loose ends and settles all disputes that were put into motion in the first film and returns home, back to his retired life. But his violent history catches up with him once again when Wick is visited by an Italian crime lord, Santino D’Antonio, who requires his services and asks him to honour the agreement that was symbolised by a blood-oath medallion. When John refuses, citing retirement, Santino burns down his house to compel him to return. After being reminded of the two unbreakable rules of the underworld, John agrees to repay the debt and gets the job done but is forced to enlist the help of a former foe after Santino attempts to wipe the slate clean.
Directed by Chad Stahelski, John Wick: Chapter 2 begins with an action-packed sequence that very much feels like an epilogue of the first chapter. Nevertheless, it works as an excellent reminder of who John Wick is, what he is capable of, and how greatly he is feared in the criminal underworld, in case you had forgotten. The story capitalises on the solid platform provided by its predecessor and sets up its own premise relatively quick, following which Stahelski launches an all-out assault on the senses by throwing one sumptuously choreographed segment after another that seamlessly weave in-n-out of the film’s dramatic portions and continues to escalate the stakes for the remainder of the story before wrapping it all up on a memorable high.
Written by Derek Kolstad, the plot outline featured in the screenplay has a very simple structure but the otherworldly setting that was expertly envisioned from scratch in the previous chapter and played a highly vital role in imbuing a sense of uniqueness to its world is exquisitely detailed in this sequel. It offers a deeper insight into the strict codes & morals that members of this criminal underworld live by, the numerous privileges of the underworld resources they get access to, and the unbreakable rules which, when violated, guarantees swift execution. In addition to that, the very aura of the man, the myth, the legend that has loomed over this franchise from the first film gets further magnified here, plus we get to witness first-hand why our titular character is such an intimidating icon in this universe.
The technical aspects showcase massive improvements in the minutest of areas, which in turn gives this picture a heavily refined look & feel. Production design team contributes with meticulously detailed & gorgeously rendered set pieces that add to its distinctive iconography yet retain the contemporary flavour of the original. Cinematography was one of the greatest highlights of its predecessor, especially for its neat camerawork that captured its moments of action in a clear, concise fashion, and it is even better in this second chapter, for the images retain their sharpness & clarity despite the insanely aggressive operation of the camera and maintains its focus on the eponymous character amidst all the mayhem that unfolds throughout its runtime, all of which is more uplifted by its neon lighting & vibrant colour tones.
Its expertly staged, ingeniously choreographed & precisely photographed gun-fu sequences are even more evolved, more barbaric & more breathtaking when compared to the original, and is bound to leave every action film fanatic in a state of pure bliss with its unabashedly brutal, relentlessly violent, high-octane, pulse-pounding combat sequences that simply keep surfacing from beginning to end. Editing paces its 122 minutes at breakneck speed, and the terrific balance between its action & drama is what makes the whole ride so visceral & engaging on every level. Costume design stands out again with its sleek & stylish attires, Visual & Sound effects work in perfect harmony and greatly amplify the desired effect of several moments, while both Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard intensify the overall experience by contributing with another dynamic score.
Coming to the performances, John Wick: Chapter 2 is Keanu Reeves’ show all the way as the 52-year old veteran once again steals every single moment with the role he was born to play, and his swashbuckling performance in this instalment is even better than his last outing. The role is more physically demanding than last time, however, Reeves is able to fill the shoes with startling ease and utilises his charismatic on-screen flair to perfection to illustrate his Boogeyman character with unerring discipline. Ian McShane returns to play the enigmatic manager of the Continental Hotel and delivers another fab performance. The new additions consist of Ricardo Scamarcio, Common, Ruby Rose & Laurence Fishburne and even though Scamarcio isn’t an intimidating antagonist, he doesn’t overact like Michael Nyqvist did in the previous chapter. Fishburne only has a cameo but he makes full use of his limited screen time, Common leaves his mark as the elite bodyguard while Rose’s character is far more interesting than, say, Ms. Perkins.
On an overall scale, John Wick: Chapter 2 is such an exceptional upgrade over its predecessor that it ends up absolutely decimating the original in all departments of filmmaking and effortlessly exceeds all hype & expectations to cement its spot amongst the greatest action extravaganzas ever made. An insanely slick, smart, sophisticated & stunning amalgamation of kinetic direction, astounding action, excellent writing, outstanding camerawork, tight editing & faultless score that’s steered by an impeccable showcase from Keanu Reeves, the latest instalment in the John Wick saga is a brutal, barbaric & breathtaking entry that promises a non-stop thrill ride to its audience and delivers it in mind-blowing doses. A thrilling exercise in unlimited carnage, John Wick: Chapter 2 is to John Wick what The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins, and purely from an action standpoint, what The Raid 2 was to The Raid. Crafted with passion, told with confidence & executed with flamboyance, John Wick: Chapter 2 is one of the finest sequels ever made and is an action masterpiece for the ages. One hundred percent recommended.