Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

Certificate 15, 122 minutes

Director: Chad Stahelski

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane

John Wick: Chapter 2 is the sequel to John Wick. It opens with a man on a motorbike being chased through the streets of New York by an American muscle car. The biker eventually ploughs into the side of the muscle car and a, currently unseen, man gets out of the latter and removes what looks to be a metal card of some type from the injured biker. Next, heavily tattooed men are removing many valuables, including gold and cash, from taxis and packing them for transport. The man who runs this operation, Abram Tarasov (Peter Stormare), is the brother of Viggo and the uncle of Iosef, the man who stole John Wick’s car in the first film. And killed his puppy. Said car is now part of Tarasov’s inventory, and he knows that Wick is coming, so he is leaving. For John was the man in the car earlier – played again by Keanu Reeves – and what he took was a security pass to Tarasov’s warehouse. John Wick finds his car pretty quickly, the Ford Mustang, and in the process of taking it he kills a whole bunch of faceless goons and pretty badly bangs the car up, before going to see Tarasov. John still wants to get out, and offers peace, for this entire load of mayhem was simply the pre-credits scene.

With his John Wick: Chapter 2recovered, but now badly in need of a fix-up, car, John heads back to his home, planning to retire again. He has a new, bigger, dog, and buries his gold coins, suit and weapons back in the floor where he dug them up from in the first film. Just as he finally accomplishes this, a man knocks on his door. The man is Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), an Italian crime lord, who wants John to do something for him. He bears an odd circular medallion – which was seen in the opening credits – that opens up and has a bloody fingerprint inside. The fingerprint is Wick’s, and this is a marker, a debt John owes to Santino for the latter helping him with whatever the impossible task was John performed in order to get out, which was referred to by Viggo. John refuses, and Santino says that you can’t just come out of retirement and then go back into it again without there being consequences. After Santino leaves, he blows up Wick’s house, destroying it. At least the dog didn’t die this time.

Returning to the Continental in New York, John meets with Winston (Ian McShane), the manager. Winston says that a marker is a marker. If John kills Santino, refuses to honour the marker or runs away, the High Table will have him killed. So John goes to see Santino to find out what the task is. Santino wants John to kill his, Santino’s, sister. He doesn’t want to do it himself, as he still loves her, but she inherited their father’s seat at the High Table, and Santino wants it himself. Santino wants John to go to Rome for his sister, Gianna’s (Claudia Gerini), coronation, and Wick does.

In Rome, whilst staying at another branch of the Continental, John equips himself with weapons, maps and a bulletproof suit, and there Gianna dies. At which point Santino double-crosses him – after all, he has to take revenge for the murder of his sister – and puts a large bounty on John’s head, meaning that when he gets back to New York there are a lot of assassins gunning for him. Winston tells Santino that this was a bad idea, which he had warned him originally, and that he will regret his actions.

In the first film, there were glimpses of the underworld that John Wick had formerly inhabited, one in which certain gold coins are an important part of the economy. Here, we learn a lot more about this underworld, and it seems to be very widespread. There are two major organisations mentioned, the High Table and the Continental. The High Table is a council of twelve, by the sounds of it rulers of important criminal organisations, like Santino’s Camorra. The Russians, who John himself worked for, were another facet of this. Most of the associated people seem to be heavily into tattoos.

Another facet is the Continental, which appears to be worldwide also. They seem to be behind the economy based around the gold coins, and run various other things such as having associated businesses – the Sommelier (Peter Serafinowicz) at the Continental in Rome deals with guns and weapons, all generally referred to in terms that could well be referring to wines – and keeping track of contracts, such as the one taken out on John. This organisation is rather low-tech; most of the work is done on typewriters, bar one, extremely old, computer, and those who are part of the network use pre-smartphone mobile phones to communicate. The landlines are all rotary dial machines as well, and the paperwork is, literally, paper. Presumably this is because old equipment is either harder to compromise (most modern attack programmes would take up vastly more memory that the one computer seen would actually have, and the old-style mobiles also lack the multiple vulnerabilities of smartphones) or, like a typewriter and a filing cabinet, frankly impossible to hack. None of this is directly referred to but it’s a fascinating world to see.

The main focus of the film is, of course, the action, as John Wick shoots, stabs, punches, kicks and otherwise destroys a whole host of heavily armed – and surprisingly well-dressed – bad guys who are frankly redshirts. Only two of them prove to be even close to him in terms of threat level; Gianna’s head bodyguard Cassian (Common), who takes Wick’s actions a bit personally, and Santino’s lead, and mute, female bodyguard, the scarily attractive Ares (Ruby Rose). There evens seems to be some sort of attraction on her part towards John Wick. Not that she lets this slow her down, and she follows John and keeps an eye on him whilst he performs his task.

The action scenes are superb and extremely well choreographed. The ones in the first film were good but in the sequel they have gone totally over the top, with some wonderful, if extremely violent, set pieces, as Wick mows down all of his opponents with frightening ease. There are several more action sets on par with the pre-credits sequence; in fact, the entire action complement takes up a good chunk of the film, but keeps it fast paced enough that it’s not at all obvious when watching it just how long the film is, for it is quite lengthy. As far as the film’s soul goes, it seems to have a bit less than the first, although John is still trying to get out of his former life; unsuccessfully at that. It does make up for this in sheer action though. John Wick: Chapter 2 is an extremely violent film that should appeal to fans of the first, and of well-executed fight scenes, and another sequel is planned.

 

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