The Rough Rider

John Wick Returns in a Thrilling Second Chapter

Lahela Delaney, Editor

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John Wick: Chapter 2 opens with a fast-paced car chase through rainy, neon streets punctuated by hairpin turns and screeching tires. Just as the audience begins to contemplate the questionable emptiness of such a big city, the chase culminates in a spectacular crash between the two deadly racing mates wherein John Wick, played by the enigmatic Keanu Reeves, steps out of his car and begins to rifle through the jacket of the prone motorcyclist that smashed into his door.

What comes next serves to tie up the loose ends left by the original and to remind the audience of who exactly they came to see. Brutality, thy name is John Wick. The protagonist takes back the car that was stolen from him in the first movie, runs a few people over with it, and eventually finds his way back home with just a little more blood on his hands than he had before.

For fans of the first movie, the strange motivations behind John’s killing sprees are far from unfamiliar. Yet the John Wick series is all the funnier for its ultra violence—the simplicity of Wick’s bloodiest battles leave them imbued with a sense of amusement. Seeing the solitary figure of Keanu Reeve’s stoic assassin kicking around a horde of villainous lackeys over a Camaro even when he’s pretty beat up himself gives the franchise a lightness to violence that similar movies find themselves bogged down by, a result of the elegance with which former stuntman Chad Stahelski directs.

But John Wick: Chapter 2 tastefully sheds the emotional baggage of its predecessor and embraces the strange world it created on the fringe. In expanding this parallel universe of super assassins where John Wick sits as top dog, the film toys with high-class hotels that moonlight as assassin safe grounds and a currency of engraved gold coins, quickly evolving into an intensely satisfying sensory overload focused around the traditions of an archaic assassin’s society that never takes itself too seriously. 

Still, it would be no John Wick movie without a revenge plot and John’s newest motivations come in the form of an Italian mobster by the name of Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) who is looking for the only man that could possibly kill his sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini).

Wick expresses an understandable reluctance at the request. Yet, his personal disinterest holds him back more than any moral obligation; from the onset of the first movie, the audience knows that the assassin gig John is oh-so-good at is something he would really rather leave in the past. He articulates these feelings, stating firmly that he is “not that guy anymore,” to which D’Antonio replies, “You are always that guy, John.”

John Wick does eventually kneel to his advances like D’Antonio seems to know he would, but mostly because Santino casually brings up a near unbreakable blood oath called a marker that Wick once promised him accompanied by a bazooka strong enough to topple a small nation that blasts itself straight through John’s widow. Is blowing up a guy’s house after he’s already lost his wife, his dog, and his car all so you can kill your own sister a little excessive? In short, yes. But Santino D’Antonio is just the kind of guy that John Wick associates himself with.

The grisly cast of characters introduced in Chapter 2 does not end with D’Antonio either. John Wick’s Roman battleground is populated by razor-sharp hired killers that protect their masters with an animalistic loyalty. Gianna D’Antonio’s suave right-hand man Cassian (Common) and Santino’s ever-present female bodyguard Ares (Ruby Rose) stand as two of the steepest obstacles the titular character has ever faced and John’s fight scenes with both are spectacular. As the film concludes, John and his new dog limp off. John is exhausted, disheveled, and lonesome—but still pretty freakin’ cool.  

With Chapter 2 moving at such a fast pace, it is easy to lose sight of the movie’s stunning cinematography. A camera captures a languorous pan over city skylines and tattoos that shift artfully under purple bruises as John Wick pulls on his button down—each scene pieces together an impressive, purposeful work of motion that is unexpected of both a sequel and a macho action movie. John Wick’s charm stems from its balance; the movie holds an aesthetic integrity and moments of stark relief that are as frequent as the active, visceral series of explosive action that captures the John Wick audience more than it incites distaste. 

John Wick: Chapter 2 delivers in everything it promised. The fluidity of the action and the coolness of John Wick’s physicality remained intact for the second chapter and the franchise once again provides a violent slugfest creative enough to satisfy any audience that can stomach John Wick’s innovative use of guns, knives, and even pencils. Most of all, there was an overarching sense of autonomy from all of the characters—Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat, as John Wick’s tattoos say. If fortune favors the bold, it’s no wonder John Wick: Chapter 2 is still killing it at the box office.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is rated R and currently screening.

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John Wick Returns in a Thrilling Second Chapter