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At The Movies

John Wick: Chapter 2

★★★★

Director: Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne, Common

 

‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ is the follow up to 2014’s violent revenge extravaganza ‘John Wick’ and, yes, this time around there are a lot more head-shots.

The second film starts off where the first one ended. Having avenged the murder of his dog, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is now on a mission to retrieve his car from what remains of the Russian mob. He infiltrates their operation and after some impressive car chases, stunts, fight choreography and plenty of blood manages to come to a peace accord with the head of the organisation. What’s surprising is that throughout this entire opening sequence there are a total of two (non-lethal!) gun shots.

Having retrieved what’s left of his car Wick goes back into retirement. Or so he thought. Less then 24 hours later an old acquaintance, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up on Wicks doorstep to collect on an old debt. Wick is to assassinate Santino’s sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini) so that the former can take her place as the head of the D’Antonio family. Initially Wick declines, but after some explosive persuasion by Santino and because the rules of the land decree so, has no choice but to strap on the gun once again.

After arriving in Italy and going through what is an amusing preparation sequence Wick reluctantly carries out his mission. But this is then followed up by a double cross which sets Wick off on yet another revenge rampage. Cue one and a half hours of non-stop brutal violence of all manner (there is another pencil sequence) with occasional breaks in between to give the audience a breather.

While Keanu Reeves is generally liked as a person, his performances usually get mixed reactions. Some people consider his acting to be wooden, expressionless and boring, while others see him taking a purposefully subtle and minimalist approach. But that sort of style works for the character of John Wick. Like the action protagonists of the 80’s he is a man of very few words, letting his fists and guns do most of the talking and due to the nature of his profession (assassin) you would not expect to see much emotion from such a character. So Reeves does a good job of portraying a man who just wants to be left alone to get on with his life of solitude but if forced has no qualms about dispatching his enemies with cold efficiency.

The supporting cast includes such talented actors as Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Morpheus himself Laurence Fishburne. Perhaps the weakest of the supporting characters was Ares (Ruby Rose), Santino’s deaf right hand woman and bodyguard. While the character could have been a memorable addition to the franchise, Rose’s performance leaves her feeling as more of comic relief then a genuine threat.

Due to the fact that most of the film is dedicated to action set pieces the supporting cast is not given too much screen time but the few interactions that they do have with Wick is a welcome and even necessary break from all the mayhem.

A special mention has to go to the cinematography (Jonathan Sela) and fight choreography (Jonathan Eusebio). The fight sequences are inventive and resemble a dance. The various locations are interesting and in many instances outright beautiful. The cinematography lifts the film over your typical action blockbusters by being visually stylistic. And just as importantly the action is shot in a way that allows for these elements to be clearly seen and admired. There is no extreme shaky cam or painful 20 cuts a minute utilised here in order to give a fight scene a false sense of urgency or to cover up sub-par choreography.

For those of you who want to see a nuanced, subtle and thought provoking film with poignant social commentary should stay clear of this one. This film may have a big Hollywood budget but it is an 80’s inspired action B-movie through and through and it makes no qualms about it. I went in to see Keanu Reeves quietly fight, shoot, mangle and kill a ridiculous number of henchmen in excessively creative ways. This combined with the visually impressive cinematography earns ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’, 4 stars out of 5.

 

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