PLOT- In this second installment of the franchise, John Wick (Keanu Reeves), is forced back into the life of an assassin, when a former colleague, Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls on a favor that Wick is unable to refuse. Wick is asked to kill Santino's sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini), who is about to become the head of a powerful group of assassins in Italy. If Wick refuses, his own life could be in danger. Wick completes the task, but quickly learns that it is a trap, and that he is in more danger than ever. Can Wick manage to fend off assassins from around the world? Assassins that seem to be on every street corner? More important, will Wick's dog survive?
LIKE- When Dan and I rented the first John Wick, we had zero expectations. We had not even seen a trailer for the film. The first film was immensely creative and unexpected. It was gory, violent, and hilarious. We loved it, and we were excited for the sequel.
Admittedly, John Wick: Chapter 2, is not as good as the original. We already knew the tone and it wasn't as much of a delightful surprise. However, just because it wasn't quite as good, doesn't mean that it isn't a fun ride or that it lacked creativity.
John Wick is a solid protagonist. For as much as I've been down on Reeves for his previous acting jobs in movies like Point Break and Bram Stoker's Dracula, he is well-cast as Wick. Wick is a man who in life, has been both physically and mentally beaten to a pulp. He is stoic and hardened. Although there are tender moments with his dog or when he is looking at a photo of his dead wife, Wick doesn't betray a lot of emotion. He is mostly an ass-kicking machine and although Reeves might not be as muscular as other action stars, his scrappiness makes him believable in the role.
My favorite part of both films is The Continental and its proprietor, Winston (Ian McShane). The Continental is a hotel that provides a safe spot for assassins. They cannot kill on its grounds and the staff is well-aware of the activities of the guests. I love the creativity of a hotel for assassins, and that McShane has been cast as Winston. McShane makes anything better. Along with The Continental, there are nearby businesses catering to assassins, like a place to buy fancy weapons and a tailor that makes custom suits with armor. This entire world has a keen sense of style and decorum, a great balance to the massive amounts of bloodshed.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is incredibly violent and bloody, but there is humor with the killings. For example, Wick is known for murder by pencil. PENCIL = let that sink in! We also learn that the homeless living on the subways, might not always be homeless after all. Or maybe you should watch out for that street musician.
DISLIKE- The only real dislike was the character of Ares, played by Ruby Rose. What drove me nuts about Ares, is her lack of backstory. Hell, they don't even mention her name in the film, I had to get that from IMDB. Ares only communicates through sign language, so I'm guessing that she's deaf, however she seems to have zero problems creeping around corners, and taking part in situations where hearing would be necessary. Ares being deaf added a quirk for the character and lent itself to the stylistic choice of using subtitles to translate her sign language, but I don't think it was necessary or added anything relevant to the story. If anything, I thought it was confusing, and I kept waiting for the moment where her disability would be exploited in a way that made sense to the story, whether for her benefit or downfall.
I thought the bloody showdown with Ares and her crew in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, was a bit contrived. I'm guessing they filmed on location, as they were very careful that nothing real in the gallery got damaged (blood splattering on floors and info markers only), but when they moved to a modern art installation, which was clearly filmed on a sound stage and created for the film, all hell broke loose. The use of mirrors was cool, but in general, the scenes with Ares were my least favorite of the film. I like Rose in Orange is the New Black, but I did not care for her, or her character, in John Wick: Chapter 2.
RECOMMEND- Yes, but only if you've seen the first film. If you can handle hyper-violent action films, John Wick is a fun franchise.