‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ offers a cinematic ballet of violence

Culture Film
Image credit: Lionsgate Studios via Facebook
Image credit: Lionsgate Studios

After his Russian-slaying rampage in the first film, John Wick tries to forget his past — but every action has consequences, and his attempt at a quiet life fails. And with that, Keanu Reeves blasts back into cinemas with the much anticipated, action-packed John Wick: Chapter 2.

John Wick has had a few weeks to recover since his last action escapade in 2014’s John Wick, but the chaos he created the first time around does not go unnoticed. Wick’s return from retirement is imposed upon him when Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) forces Wick to carry out an assassination that could greatly affect a mysterious organization called the High Table, overseer of a complex network of assassins. Wick no longer fights to avenge his beloved puppy, but to escape the clutches of crime-lords who are in need of his talents.

The first film only ever alluded to the High Table in passing, with shots of the Continental Hotel and those cryptic gold coins. But in the sequel, viewers are immediately drawn into a narrative that feeds more information about this secret society of criminals. In fact, there are parts of the film that hint at a larger, even more complex world that will most likely be expanded upon in the third chapter. (Yes, this will be a trilogy!)

Keanu Reeves perfectly portrays the highly skilled hitman John Wick. With relentless combat training before filming the second chapter, Reeves’ newfound fitness and fighting skills allow for even more action-heavy and cinematically astonishing scenes. Laurence Fishburne, meanwhile, is reunited with his Matrix costar after 14 years, playing the small but pivotal role of Bowery King, and stealing the show each time he’s on screen. John Leguizamo and Ian McShane return as Aurelio and Winston respectively, and hip hop artist Common plays Cassian, a competitive hitman with a vendetta against John Wick. Reeves and Common have remarkable chemistry on screen, even as their characters are locked in battle.

Director Chad Stahelski has spent most of his career as a stuntman, and in many cases, as a double for Keanu Reeves. He exploded with his directorial debut John Wick and he hasn’t slowed down with Chapter 2. His in-depth understanding of fight choreography is on display throughout the adrenaline-filled action sequences that have the audiences feeling every punch and wincing at every gunshot.

Unlike many action films where the camera is shaky and the scene is riddled with rapid cuts, the cinematography of John Wick: Chapter 2 sets it apart. Stahelski’s willingness to film longer, steadier shots gives the audience both a clear sense of the characters’ movements and puts the actors’ and stunt doubles’ talents in martial arts on full display.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is 2017’s quintessential action thriller. The plot and motivations of the characters at times border on irrational, yet the film never tries to trick the audience by being something it’s not. This is a self-aware run-and-gun roller coaster where the goal is to have viewers on the edge of their seats — so buckle up for the most heart pumping, breathtaking, nonstop action movie of the year.