I’ve always thought of escapist, mind-numbing action movies as something my dad watched, but not me. I thought that action movies were a big cash-grab for Hollywood, pumping out sequel after sequel to a mindless movie-goer with no taste. In the back of my mind, I yearned for one day when I’d get to see a masterful action movie, that involved everything I’d ever wanted in a film, including a complicated, thought-provoking story with heart-racing, jaw-dropping sequences. John Wick 2 landed in about the middle of these two expectations.
If you’re a fan of the first movie, you’ll know that the protagonist’s adventures begin with a young man stealing his car and killing his dog. He is forced out of retirement from the assassin trade to kill this naive young man. The young man doesn’t believe the wisdom bestowed upon him from the older generation and fails to realize that John Wick is truly an unstoppable force of nature.
The second film is the same formula set in Rome, trying to outdo the first film. The story is boring, the dialogue is typical vague-action movie dialogue and Keanu Reeves’ performance is, as always, a little wooden. However, the action in this movie was truly jaw-dropping.
This film was full of long take sequences, tense close combat and stunts that will make you think ‘how did they do that without actually killing them?’ Judging by the movie as well as some press floating around about how much Keanu Reeves had to prepare for this role, it’s clear how much the filmmakers cared about getting a beautiful, heart-pounding scene purely with choreography and without using editing or animation as a crutch. The first scene is a cityscape with Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. (1924) being projected onto a building as John Wick zooms in on a motorcycle followed by two cars. It’s clear the director, Chad Stahelski, shares Keaton’s philosophy of filmmaking serving choreography.
A word of warning to the squeamish and those with sensitive hearing: this movie has a lot of people being shot in the head with really loud guns. On the other hand, if you like action movies, this is truly a great step forward.
-Luke Webster, Assistant Arts & Culture Editor