John Wick Chapter 2 is a stellar film on many levels, all of which I will dive into throughout this review. I will mention the paucity of issues I had with this film towards the end, as well as my Parental Advisory section. As a means of respect to my readers, there are no spoilers in this review.
Chapter 2 follows on the heels of its predecessor with an entertaining helicopter view of a city car chase. Let me say first and foremost that the action in this film is exquisitely done from start to finish, and as someone with a major in film studies, I was incredibly impressed with every action scene in this film.
The film briefly recaptures the remnants of the original John Wick story: John’s dog—his last gift from his dead wife–was murdered, and John is on the verge of completing his spree of vindication on all of his enemies. Upon completion, a former colleague of John’s past arrives and brings him a request he can’t refuse–but he still does. This costs him, and a new story is born. Chapter 2’s story begins here. Honestly, a 10-year-old child would understand the story of this movie because of its simplicity, but the content of this movie is far too mature for any 10-year-old.
Again, the action is exquisite. Not only the gun fights, but also the choreographed fight sequences between Wick and his many enemies. Just when you think you’ve seen the “highlight fist fight,” another one shows up and is just as entertaining, if not more. When I say entertaining, I’m not referring to the glorification of violence (as I am a Christ-follower and I do not believe violence is the solution the world’s plethora of problems), rather, I am referring to the value of the work that went into making these fights appear realistic and painful by the cast and crew of the film’s production. I was particularly impressed with one of the fight scenes which ended soon after a fall down some stairs. Now, I’m quite confident stunt doubles were used since this looked incredibly painful for the main actors to be falling down stairs, but I couldn’t tell because only the close-up shots revealed the actors faces clearly. Again, state of the art choreography in this film brings the brutal reality of the world of assassins to fruition on-screen.
One of the many facets of this film that I appreciated was its use of on-location production value; there are hardly any scenes in this movie that I would be able to guess were shot on studio sets with dressing and props. Most of the film’s production appears on-location, giving the world of John Wick a broader scope of reality. This is not a film careening on a narrow budget limited within apartment complexes and side alleys—it’s out in heavily populated areas mid-day with everything operating as if we were right there with them. The value of this alone is worth capturing the attention of viewers uninterested in some cheap film about the same ol’ story. Chapter 2 certainly delivers even on its production value, and that is commendable.
Another aspect of this film that I appreciated quietly was its humor. Chapter 2 doesn’t take itself too seriously; there are moments of humor sprinkled in that are so fitting that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud in the theater. While John is beating men to a pulp outside, their leader nervously awaits what will happen next while listening the sounds of grunting men outside his office door. His reactions are timed so perfectly that I couldn’t help but find humor in the horror of his expressions. These uses of humor were appropriately used likely to balance out the brutality of the fights and the consistent action throughout the film. For a two-hour action movie, a grand 3/4 or more is spent on action alone; that is both incredible and incredulous without going overboard, and Chapter 2 does this flawlessly.
My one only issue with John Wick Chapter 2 was some of the dialogue. In particular, the dialogue for Keanu Reeves as John Wick himself. I have never considered Keanu Reeves to be a complex actor of multiple nuances, and I do not think his roles appear to be very challenging psychologically, but more physically demanding due to the fights (The Matrix trilogy is a great reference for this comment). The acting here is just about the same; there is little challenge for an actor to put on an assassin’s countenance and pretend to have lost his dog and wife with some pained expressions intermittently between action scenes, a reminder of his humanity beyond his career. The writing for Keanu is just predictable and cheesy, although it is fitting for such a film. For example, “You tell them if they come for me, I will kill them. Every last one of them. I’ll kill them all.” It’s extremely cliché and taken from an old mold of action films, but nevertheless it’s befitting given the circumstances. I’m not putting Keanu on the bench, I’m simply stating that the writing could have at least slightly benefitted from some attempt to be more original.
To reiterate, I am a Christ follower and I do not write this review to encourage people to go watch the movie because of all the violence. I write this review to explain the strengths of the production value, and to inform audiences that the entertainment value of the choreography, principal photography, and story alone are worth the appreciation. That said, I will close with my precautions.
Chapter 2 is brutal and bloody; bones break and every punch or kick in every fight is shown without any jarring camera movements. This filmmaking decision leaves room for the viewer to fully experience every punch, kick, bullet, and grunt of the actors. Heads are shot at point-blank with graphic results. It’s extremely violent. Not Hacksaw Ridge war-carnage violent, but still graphic. Not only would I strongly urge caution against any young children viewing this, I would also heavily urge parents to take strong caution against taking their teenage kids to see this simply due to the nature of the violence in this film. A lot of influence derives from watching stylized gun fights and carefully planned choreography implemented by talented actors and hours of practice. When teenagers watch this, not all of them consider the ramifications of mirroring this type of violence in the real world, and they take the fictitious character of someone like John Wick to heart, thinking it justified to go on a killing spree. As someone who believes in Christ as my hope in life, an educational experience, and a tool belt of common sense to know how film is entirely separate from real life, I am able to watch a film like this and be unaffected by the violence because I know how everything in film works. Many a teenager who does not have this perspective might view a film like this and try to re-enact what they see. For this reason, I strongly, heavily urge parents to consider extreme caution with their kids watching this.
For the rest of us who know the world of film apart from the world outside the movie theater, I highly recommend taking yourself to see John Wick Chapter 2, especially if you enjoyed watching the first movie. Without watching the first, this film will make much less sense, though it may be enjoyable simply for the reasons explained in this review; not to mention there’s an actor which was nice to see acting alongside Keanu again since The Matrix films. Go ahead and watch to find out for yourself.
Overall, I would rate John Wick Chapter 2 5/5 stars.
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