JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 review by Rahul Vedantam – Keanu Reeves is thinking he’s back

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 review by Rahul Vedantam – Keanu Reeves is thinking he’s back

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It still confounds me how films like THE RAID and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD are able to be so enthralling despite their dearth of plot, character development, and dialogue. From the days of Shakespeare, these are the basic tenants that make up a story. This sort of bombastic, action dependent directing normally leads to superficiality (see the recent TRANSFORMERS films). The best analogy I can create is that they are like a modern day hip-hop trap single. They completely lack musical key signature and dynamic phrases, but sometimes, because of enough charisma, charm, and pure unadulterated adrenaline, you get an undeniable hit. This was the case for the movies above along with the original JOHN WICK, and it is certainly the case for JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2.

The plot of the first installment took simplicity to absurdism: a retired hitman sets out to avenge the death of his dog. A scenario so ridiculous that comic duo Key & Peele congruently (according to interviews) came up with the idea for their aptly named comedy KEANU. JOHN WICK 2 takes a little longer to settle in, having almost no action during the first act, but overall isn’t much more complicated.

Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up on Wick’s doorstep to collect on a contract that Wick agreed to as a condition of leaving the hitman business to lead his quiet life. Wick’s sister is a member of an international crime council, and D’Antonio wants Wick to assassinate her so that he can take her place. The underground crime world where assassin’s live by an honor code and there are special hotels catering to them, it all sets up the tone of the movie nicely: cartoonish, mildly comedic, but always bloody.

This stays true for the action sequences, as Wick goes through every hell imaginable. It is no mistake having former stuntman Chad Stahelski direct the project, as he ensures no action sequence is badly choreographed. Wick is a true force of carnage – punching, stabbing and shooting everything in his way. THE RAID was able to keep its action fresh by small environments and close combat. A JOHN WICK movie uses each setting to give a unique feel and color palette that separates each fight like levels in a video game. One fight takes place going down a seemingly endless set of stairs, another in a hall of giant mirrors, or in an all-white tunnel. The comedy is not lost here, plenty of laugh-inducing moments come from visual gags.

Reeves’ performance is the only one noteworthy, and the noteworthy aspect is how he is able to pull off a lack of performance. The 52-year-old does not have any problems with the action, but I am also have convinced the man is a vampire given how well he has aged. John Wick is entirely dead inside, and this strange assassin world is purgatory, a metaphor that is not lost on director Stahelski (the front desk of the assassin hotel is named Charon). Laurence Fishburne comes in during a break to help provide some structure to the film, but everything rests on Reeves’ shoulders here and he carries it well. The soundtrack underscores the action, but is not impressive in its own right.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 carries the film in absurdity and I couldn’t be happier. Wild, funny, and enthralling, this is action at it’s best.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 opens February 10, 2017

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