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MOVIE REVIEW: JOHN WICK – CHAPTER 2 IS EVERY FAN’S WET DREAM

There are NO spoilers from John Wick: Chapter 2. However, there are spoilers from the first film.

I remember watching John Wick like it was just three years ago. It was a Thursday night and I needed to catch a movie to write a review on, at work, the next day. There were no “anticipated” movies screening at that time, not one I haven’t yet seen, anyway. So, I thought to myself, “you know what? Fuck it. Let’s just watch this John Wick nonsense.” A movie directed by former stunt-choreographers and starring a has been, coming out fresh from working in projects like 47 Ronin and Man of Tai Chi? It seemed like John Wick was going to be such a huge steaming pile of garbage, that I would have a ton of fun murdering it in my review.

Oh…. How very wrong I turned out to be.

Who can forget this scene? One of the coolest, most epic scenes in action movie history. It is so insanely badass, that it eats the “I will find you and I will kill you” scene from Taken and spits it out into your neighbour’s drain. Needless to say, I was PUMPED for John Wick: Chapter 2. You know a movie is fucking BOSS when the title reads “Chapter 2” instead of just “2.”

Sure enough, John Wick: Chapter 2 starts off in a manner which screams, BUCKLE YOUR SEATBELTS MOFOS, THIS SHIT IS GONNA BE LIKE REDBULL + COFFEE + THAT ADRENALINE YOU FELT WHEN YOU BONED YOUR GIRLFRIEND’S MOM!!!!!!! <<< Note,  all caps and SEVEN exclamation marks.  

Look, I’m not usually a fan of car chase sequences. However, when it’s filmed with such grace, in a stylistic manner, like it is here, I’m all in. One thing I hate about most action movies is the fact that almost nothing on screen is comprehensible. All the action scenes consist of nothing but shaky cam, a billion jump cuts and a middle finger to the audience. Seriously, wtf Resident Evil? Are you trying to give me a headache?

Chad Stahelski and David Leitch – only Stahelski for this second instalment – deserve so much praise for their work on the John Wick franchise, thus far. Every single action sequence, whether it involves moving vehicles, guns or hand-to-hand combat, is filmed beautifully. No shaky cam bullshit, whatsoever. Of course, for the directors to film action scenes in such a crisp manner, Keanu Reeves had to do most, if not all of the stunts, himself. And, he does so brilliantly.

While the action sequences are pretty much the backbone of John Wick: Chapter 2, that isn’t necessarily what makes the movie a blast from start till end. What separates the John Wick franchise from your average, revenge action flick – Taken / The Equalizer – is its mythology. In the John Wick universe, mobsters may live amongst civilians, but they live by a different set of rules. Police officers respect them, they trade using pirate doubloons, and perhaps the most interesting: Continental Hotels – pretty much a sacred ground for these assassins, in which no business (aka killing/fighting) may be conducted.

Chapter 2 expands this mythology. At the start of the film we see two mobsters talking to each other.

Older mobster: He once killed three men in a bar… with a pencil… with a fucking pencil.

My initial thought was, “that’s weird? Are they rehashing dialogues from the first movie?” Except, the younger assassin then responds.

Younger mobster: Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard the story.

Older mobster: Well, you should know that that’s the watered-down version.

And immediately I changed my mind from “that’s weird,” to “that’s so cool.” You see, the Baba Yaga story has become legendary among the mobster community. Maybe even fairy-tale like. Everyone talks about it. But, if that’s the watered-down version, then what’s the uncensored version? What part of the story is real and what’s fabricated?

Once again, we explore the Continental Hotel. In one scene, John Wick and Cassian (Common), have drinks with each other in the hotel, when merely two seconds ago, they were trying to kill each other. Because no business may be conducted on Continental grounds. We’re also introduced to new aspects of this universe such as blood honour and also admins/clerks who work in what seems to be the HQ for the mobsters. I know, I know, clerks doing paperwork in an office sounds boring. But you have to remember, this is the John Wick universe, and in the John Wick universe, everything is BADASS. I hope in the third movie, they show us the toilets in the mobster HQ. Are the toilet bowls made of gold? Are you allowed to conduct business while conducting “business” (see what I did there?)? The possibilities are endless.

Is the movie perfect? No. Some of the dialogues are rather unnatural, comprising mostly of one-liners. But the actors make it work. From Keanu Reeves to Lawrence Fishburne to Ian McShane, everyone looks like they’re having the time of their lives playing these characters.

One gripe I do have with the movie is that it is void of an emotional core. John Wick’s motivation in the first movie is straightforward. A bunch of assholes killed his dog, which happens to be his wife’s dying gift. Simple, yet powerful. It’s difficult to get emotionally invested in Chapter Two because he has already gotten his revenge. Now, what you’re left with is a man who has lost everything he ever cared about. How do you connect with someone who has absolutely nothing to lose? How do you connect with someone who is doing what he’s doing, not because he’s enraged and wants to – like in the first movie – but because he has to, as the rules dictate?

Having said that, what we have here is world building at its very best. A fan’s wet dream. In Batman V Superman, 285 random things were thrown in just for the sake of expanding the universe. You can literally hear the studio heads saying, “Story? Who cares? Just throw in The Death of Superman, Injustice, Time travel, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, Doomsday! Just shove every major comic book story arc and character in it.”

In the John Wick universe, the world unfolds slowly and we’re left salivating for more. I can’t wait for the third instalment. Heck, how about a 10-episode miniseries on the “impossible task,” titled John Wick: Chronicles of Baba Yaga.

DEDPEWL RATING: 

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May the force be with you!

On weekdays, I spend half of my time convincing anyone who would listen to watch Star Wars, and the other half trying to figure out why people consider White Chicks and Ouija to be good films. And, on weekends, I sit on my ass and watch Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy over and over and over and over again.

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