John Wick is back in Chapter 2, directed by Chad Stahelski and starring Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Ricardo Scamarcio, Common, Lawrence Fishburne and Ruby Rose.
Ok, so the marketing campaign for this movie doesn’t spoil the plot and I won’t either because if you’re interested enough in this movie to watch this review, then I want you to go see it. For the genre and kind of movie this is, it is simply amazing.
I saw xXx: The Return of Xander Cage recently with the idea of reviewing it but it was so bad, such utter crap, that I literally could not bring myself to sit down and write a review or turn on my camera to talk about it. There was just nothing good to talk about in it, but it’s when you see action movies done right like John Wick Chapter 2, that it really highlights what is so wrong with those over-the-top stupid-fests. So let’s talk about what’s so good here.
First and most important for a movie like this, the stunts are amazing. And by amazing I mean the choreography is tight, the camera work highlights the best parts of the action, your attention is riveted without distraction, the music goes beat-for-beat with what is happening on the screen and there is tension, meaning that you expect the hero to get through whatever gauntlet of bad guys are thrown at him but then again, you aren’t quite sure how he’s going to do that. When stunts are too predictable, too over-the-top, defy the laws of physics or are just plain ridiculous, they lose me and I think they lose a lot of other people too.
Now beyond the stunt work, this is an action movie the way it should be made, with a story that makes sense and characters who are consistent, intelligent and motivated. But most impressive to me, and what is really well done in John Wick 2, is the world building. In the first movie, we were introduced to the Continental Hotel and an organized criminal underworld which had a special gold coin currency and a rigorously enforced ethical code. In Chapter 2, we go even deeper into this world and while some of it is kind of silly, I’ll say that at least they took the time to make it make sense with a kind of internal logic that would appeal to anyone who would want order over chaos. In fact, it’s the ethical codes that are used to force John Wick back into this world again and it’s only because he has no choice whatsoever that he takes the plunge.
I had a really good time watching Common and Keanu Reeves go after each other. There was real tension in their mutual screen time and the way that conflict ends is…satisfying to say the least. In fact, everyone here fits in and plays their role well, barring one exception. Ruby Rose plays a mute Mafia lieutenant and she just made absolutely no sense whatsoever. First off, how are you going to hav a mute who communicates only in sign language running an entire army of mafia goons? Plus she looks like she weighs about 100 pounds and fights accordingly, meaning she is virtually no threat whatsoever to men double her size and when the climactic battle between her and John Wick finally happens, it’s not much to look at. She was exceptionally bad in xXx and is exceptionally out of place in this movie too.
So where does all of this leave us? Well, in terms of rating this, John Wick Chapter 2 isn’t Oscar material. It’s not just that it’s an action movie; there are also a few plot devices that did make me feel a little “ummmm…I don’t know about that.” Throw in what I thought was a bit of a wasted use of Lawrence Fishburne and a completely wrong Ruby Rose, and I just can’t go Sheer Awesome on this one. Instead, this gets a rating of Pretty Good and you can just add a big plus sign on that.
Get out there and see this and let me know in the comments what you think. I’d love to hear your feedback. And be sure to watch for my reviews of all the Oscar nominees on this channel before the big awards show at the end of this month. This has been Chris Shelton on The Critical Picture and I’ll see you next time.