New Wick flick is critic’s pick
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Once again forced out of retirement, John Wick must answer the cry for help he receives from an old colleague seeking to use Wick’s legendary skills to win himself a seat at the top of a shadowy crime organization.
Wick is begrudgingly dragged back into the sophisticated underground world of assassins as he fights his way through hordes of henchmen, double crossings and old enemies and friends.
With a sleeper hit like 2014’s “John Wick,” it would be easy to imagine that the sequel to a film with such surprising success would be underwhelming compared to its predecessor. Fortunately, returning director Chad Stahelski takes the artful combat sequences, enigmatic characters and brilliant world building to new heights in “John Wick: Chapter 2.”
First and foremost, Stahelski knows how to make an action movie that delivers in both brain and brawn. The camerawork for most of the fight scenes is intriguing because the bullet and blood ridden battles are filmed as though they were ordinary scenes.
While most other movies use quick, shaky shots and cuts to create an adrenaline rush, Stahelski uses the expertly intricate fight choreography to generate the tension that drives the audience to the edge of their seats.
The combination of this fluid violence and the masterful use of camerawork turns “John Wick” into a visual art form all its own. It’s everything and more of what the first movie delivered and perfected.
The final ingredient that makes the Wick films such a great watch is its self-awareness of how deadpan funny, violent and over the top it is. The movie is having a lot of fun, and it knows the audience is enjoying it too.
Writer Derek Kolstad returns to expand upon the lore of the assassin underworld that was introduced in the first Wick film. We get a better glimpse of the intricacies of the organization as the film continues to build upon the formidable legacy of Wick himself. Even characters that make an appearance from the first film are shown in a new light as more and more of the world of Wick is unveiled to the audience. The story is simple, but engagingly so — allowing more focus to be put into developing the rules and society of this mysterious organization.
And what a refined society it is. There is a charming sophistication to this world-wide community of assassins that is brought out not just in the visually striking locales, but in the script, as well. Even though they may be talented killers and criminals, they abide by strict laws that always manage to make sense even if it’s a brand-new law that is revealed to the audience. The world-building of Wick is so precise and well thought out that every new detail is completely satisfying, even if we don’t know everything. Such is the incredible talent of Derek Kolstad.
And not only is the world expanded upon, but we learn more about the titular character. While his past as an assassin is mystifying in his own right, the more human part of the character — the lonely man that wants to get away from it all — is the most touching part of this movie.
Continuing his role as the feared assassin Wick, Keanu Reeves is perfect for the role with his wooden acting style and commanding presence.
Ian McShane as Winston, the charismatic hotel manager of the assassin base in New York, is an absolute delight to watch as he powerfully chews the scenery even with a small amount of screen time.
Common as Cassian, an acquaintance-turned-enemy of Wick’s, is an entertaining rival for the retired assassin.
Laurence Fishburne is large and in charge as the electrifying Bowery King, who’s boisterous character is one of the highlights on the film.
Riccardo Scimarcio plays the enigmatic Santino D’Antonio, a character from Wick’s past.
If you liked the fluidly fun fight choreography, genius world building and blatant self-awareness of “John Wick” you’ll love “Chapter 2.” As the “2” in the title suggests, all of the elements from the first movie are doubled to make a thoroughly satisfying and visually invigorating film that knows how to have fun while dishing out loads of action to the audience.