John Wick: Chapter 2 Review Round-Up: “A stupendously entertaining ride”

5 min read
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Before the end of 2014, if you had told anybody that one of the best action movies of the last decade would be made by two guys nobody had ever heard of and star Keanu Reeves as a hitman out for justice for his slain dog and stolen car, they would have been measuring you up for the straitjacket. But that’s exactly what we got when John Wick dropped out of nowhere and blew everybody’s minds. Literally in the case of all the headshots being dealt out.

It wasn’t just the body count though, but the masterful action choreography that turned John Wick into a violent ballet so supremely cool and stylistic that it would leave John Woo a touch damp in the nether regions. Combine that with stunning cinematography and a world and characters that hinted at an intriguing expanded mythology, and you had a bona file instant classic on your hands.

But how do you replicate that success? Can you? Often when Hollywood specifically tries to do these rebottle that lightning is when they fail the hardest. Luckily for us though, it appears that John Wick: Chapter 2 is breaking that trend  as the first reviews rolling in for the sequel has been damn good thus far. Here’s what some of them have to say.

Variety:

The John Wick movies accomplish what Hong Kong action flicks did a quarter-century ago, seducing bloodthirsty (predominately male) audiences into appreciating an exquisitely choreographed modern ballet. If you doubt that [director Chad Stahelski] sees his own job in these terms, look no further than how he lights each scene: Even neon demon Nicolas Winding Refn must be taking notes at the way Stahelski and his crew place bright-fuchsia fluorescent tubes in a New York subway, poltergeist-blue spotlights beneath the arches of ancient Roman catacombs, and nightclub-worthy accents throughout an elaborate hall of mirrors art exhibit…

As in 2014’s surprise hit, this elegantly choreographed action sequel elevates its brutal confrontations to a dazzling form of modern dance.

The Hollywood Reporter:

[And] Reeves is back in fine form, confirming how indispensable he is to the franchise with his lithe physicality, no-nonsense demeanor and impressive skill set, as he again performs many of his own driving and martial arts stunts. Returning screenwriter Derek Kolstad reaffirms the appealing ingenuity of his highly memorable lead character, whose clear motivations for underworld score-settling are both relatable and rootable. Once again, Reeves does not disappoint, fully inhabiting Wick by channeling his rage over life’s injustices into an intensely focused performance…

Going solo on the second installment (with previous co-director David Leitch as an executive producer), Chad Stahelski doubles up on the stunts and firepower. The film’s frenetic opening car chase through night-lit Manhattan streets, followed by a near demolition derby scene as Wick targets the Russian mob’s vehicle fleet by using the Mustang as a kinetic weapon, rank respectably with almost anything that the Fast and Furious franchise can muster…

Ambitiously expanding the follow-up to a global scale implicitly signals its intention to operate at the level of iconic international actioners like the Bond, Bourne and Mission: Impossible series.

EW:

The biggest compliment I can think to pay John Wick: Chapter 2 is that I lost track of the body count within the first 15 minutes. If that sounds like high praise to you, too, then you will absolutely dig Keanu Reeves’ gratuitously crunchy ode to choreographed ultraviolence via the bullet, the bare knuckle, and the everyday No. 2 pencil.

The idea of a secret world of professional killers adhering to a set of civilized conventions may sound absurd, but it’s what makes the Wickverse more intriguing and far richer than the usual numbskull orgy of cinematic nihilism…

But it’s Reeves, with his natty suits and icy stare, who grabs you by the throat — figuratively and literally. Killing is John Wick’s business…and business is good.

JoBlo:

While JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 does suffer from IRON MAN 2 syndrome a tiny bit, in that it’s setting up something bigger, the film itself is so wildly entertaining that you won’t care. As in the first, Stahelski made this a particularly pretty film, with gorgeous neon visuals from Dan Laustsen, very much on the same style of his work with Guillermo Del Toro. The action is expanded, with Wick traveling to Rome, where he takes shelter with the Italian branch of the Continental, run, in a neat cameo, by legendary action star Franco Nero…

The action is huge, adopting a THE RAID 2 style of bigger is better, with more and more baddies for Reeves to take on. There’s a special thrill of seeing Reeves in the part, as he’s clearly doing his own choreography, and really going into the part wholeheartedly. If there’s anything disappointing, it’s that his MATRIX co-star Laurence Fishburne doesn’t get much to do in a non-action part.

TimeOut:

Keanu Reeves is back as the savage but sensitive hitman in this wildly enjoyable and ridiculous action flick…

And what a stupendously entertaining ride it is. Director and former stuntman Chad Stahelski is back in the director’s chair, and he knows his craft inside out: every punch lands hard, every gunshot roars like thunder. Neon-lit and gloomy, the film is lovely to look at – think Nicolas Winding Refn without the pretension. The humour is charmingly self-deprecating – a series of adversarial grunt-offs between Reeves and fellow assassin Cassian (Common) are a highlight – and the testosterone-heavy supporting cast is terrific: Laurence Fishburne, Franco Nero, Ian McShane, ‘Warriors’ legend David Patrick Kelly and even Peter Serafinowicz all grab their moment in the spotlight. But it’s Keanu’s film, and he’s a joy to watch: loose, long-limbed and achingly cool in a three-piece black suit, he makes mass murder look completely effortless.

John Wick: Chapter 2 opens locally on 17 March and I cannot freaking wait!

 

 

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Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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