The boogeyman cannot die if he lives in dreams. In the second installment of the John Wick saga, we find our anti-hero caught again in violent business he wants no part of, culminating in more bloodshed and consequences than the first. But as with all intensive action flicks, does John Wick amount to anything more than a homicidal rampage?
John Wick: Chapter 2 follows the hit-man (Keanu Reeves) as he is dragged back into the criminal underworld he so passionately fought to escape. A blood oath and keen criminal civility on the part of an old business partner, Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), turn Wick back into the harbinger of death with which his name has become synonymous. But, as his adversaries are quick to learn, when dragging this incarnate devil back to hell, the penalty is your soul as much as it is your life.
Reeves kills it—and everyone around him—as Wick. He is as viewers left him in the first installment. Though outwardly unemotive, Wick is a fascinating individual as much of his character is built up in slight, almost unnoticeable cracks in his stern facial poses, or in the recounting of his lore from those who fear him. In this way, there appears to be an undercurrent of a deeper character yet to be fleshed out. In numerous scenes, sound was used to convey the internal strife of Wick. Whether it be the faint ringing of a flatline, apt self-reflective commentary from the inside of an art museum, or the quips made by men trying to kill him, Wick’s internal disposition is brought to light through these cues in his surroundings. Though canonical facts about his being are not expanded on too much in Chapter 2, Wick’s story, should there be future films in the series, will likely follow the heart of the hit-man, rather than his trigger finger.
When walking into this film with knowledge of its primary installment, one may wonder if this kind of flick can stand on its own. At first glance, the answer might appear to be no. Within the first act of the film, the ties to the original are marked and easily identifiable to fans. Wick’s exploits of the previous film are immediately established into the mythos of his character and mentioned in subtle and explicit ways throughout. These nods, though welcome to fans, likely will fall on the deaf ears of the uninitiated. Though there is more to Chapter 2 than references to the original.
It is apparent that there is little fat in the story’s narrative. Each scene serves a purpose to add to character and build out the infrastructure of the criminal enterprise Wick finds himself a part of again. It finds a way to humanize and satirize the character of Wick and the entirety of the ludicrous crime syndicate. That being said, this is no Shakespearean endeavor. Wick and his adversaries are just as dry, ruthless, and cunning as in the previous installment. The genre of the film—neo-noir action thriller—lies heavily in the last two words. The action in this film starts and does not stop. Wick’s mechanistic execution of foes is stunning, comical, and impressive all at the same time. His eyes house no notion of mercy as he guns down, evicerates, and, quite literally, blinds his foes on numerous occasions.
And yet, it is in this grotesquely enjoyable slaughter that Chapter 2 digresses from the success of the original. Though this violence is welcomed and well established, it feels relatively hollow in comparison to the high stakes of the first film. Though it is strange to say, as if to condone the violence, the emotional imperative for the killing in the first was much more wholesome. The recent loss of his wife, dog, and car seemed plenty of fuel to bring this monster among men back into the shadows. But in Chapter 2, it truly relies on the events of the first film, as we are seeing the repercussions for its happenings.
Those unfamiliar may not know what to expect and be turned away because of the unforgiving nature of Wick. For fans of the first film, there is more to love in this film. Laugh at the eyes of those who fear him, feel for the pain that motivates him, and relish in the gore he leaves behind. John Wick: Chapter 2 will satiate audience’s bloodlust. Like Wick himself, if there is more in store for this series, we will all be interested to see what the writers can do with a pencil. We already know what he is capable of.
Featured Image By Summit Entertainment