‘Blu-ray or Bust’
JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 (2017, R, 122 minutes, 87ELEVEN)
I reviewed this film when it was first released in theaters, and a second viewing has helped me pinpoint what was missing for me in this highly successful sequel.
In keeping with the same writer/director/stars, we know what to expect going in, and the ensuing bloodbaths do not disappoint. In this sequel, Wick (Keanu Reeves) is called out on a marker he provided to an Italian mobster years ago. The mobster wants his sister dead, and Wick is the man for the job—Wick doesn’t want it, of course, but he gets sucked right back into the role of assassin easily enough. This time, he’s headed to Rome, providing an even grander locale than the New York warehouses which dominated the first film. The set pieces are even more magnificent than the first, if not almost over-the-top. If any movie was going to ever be accused of having sets and scenery which over-acted, this would be it. From the giant warehouse car chase that opens the film, to the best use of a House of Mirrors in the finale, these are places you will remember. But that’s not what was bugging me about this film…
Reeves’ portrayal of Wick in the sequel is one rife with the violent side of the first, but we see more uncertainty and hesitation in his eyes this time. This makes him a bit more human, more relatable, but at the same time almost takes away from the “Boogeyman” reputation which precedes him. Originally, he was a badass with a heart, and here, he sometimes more closely resembles a badass deer caught in the headlights. But put him in a fight scene, and he’s back to being The Boogeyman we all love. Again—not my biggest issue with the film.
Writer Derek Kolstad and stuntman-turned-director Chad Stahelski are back and in control, meaning you get the same visual style as the first film, and bigger (see: longer) action scenes that try to up the ante on the violent world they initially created. They also delve much deeper into the mythos of that world. Whereas the beauty of the original film was that it wasn’t complicated, this time around there’s a bit more to it, and a whole lot more to explain about The Continental, the grand hotel that acts as a non-violent hostel for the gold-paying, killer guests. Still not my biggest issue.
The problem, I finally noticed, is the lack of humor. In the first film, there were great physical and verbal moments that were just damn funny. Not so much in the second installment. There is a brooding tone to this film that is set early on, and it never really lets up. There are a few “interesting” moments, but none of the laugh-out-loud gallows humor which underplayed the first. A shame, because this had an opportunity to be even better than the first.
This is a must on Blu-ray; between the action and the gunshots and all of the heavy breathing, if you want the full experience, catch it in the digital format. The special features highlight how much training the cast went through in order to perform the majority of their own stunts, and seeing Ruby Rose as henchwoman “Ares” getting into the physical aspect (and not in the “Orange is the New Black” kind of way) of the role just enhances her non-verbal performance.
While it may not be as smooth of an experience as the first, it is still worth your time. And it’s John Freaking Wick, fer cryin’ out loud—pay your respects to the King of the Double Tap.
Special Features: A
Blu-ray Necessary: Absolutely
-- T.S. Kummelman