John Wick: Chapter 2 ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Reflections of the Soul.

If there is a God, this is the closest I’ve felt to him in a movie theater since Mad Max: Fury Road.

“Symphony of violence” couldn’t be a more appropriate phrase to describe this movie. While John Wick likely could play an entire symphony himself, it realistically cannot be done alone. There acting as the orchestra are every punch, every mouth stabbed with a pencil, every headshot, every color palette, and every adversary John goes up against. It all adds up to something so crisp, so beautiful, so sad (a much sadder movie than the first). And I can’t forget so badass.

That term. “Badass.” I think that might be the term associated with action movies that causes people to call them “dumb fun.” Nearly every person I knew in film school — and outside of film school — figured when something was “badass” that it couldn’t also be “smart” or have something on its mind other than what a bullet could do to said mind. Look, I get it. Some action movies are dumb. You could say that about every genre.

Action movies have always been there for me, though. It was the first genre that spoke to me. Action was always my most trustworthy escape from reality. All movies are an escape for me, but there’s just something intoxicating about hyper-realities where scores are settled and catharsis can only be reached through throat-punches and point-blank headshots, where the violence directly reflects emotion. All of my favorite action movies have come out during a time in my life when I needed them. It was just one of those things that felt like it was created specifically for me at the time. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, as well as Rogue Nation, came out when I was doubting myself as an action writer. Fast Five came out when I was losing myself in film school and forgetting my ability to have fun, to name a few. John Wick came when I was a new dog parent, so needless to say, that shit hit me like a 1969 Mustang Mach1 being driven by a vengeful assassin.

And now Chapter Two is here while I’m trying to get a new job and move on and start the rest of my life. And there’s always just that general relation to movies that keeps us going as a species. So the fact that John’s struggle to find peace and come to terms with who he is takes up most of the emotional through line, made for a deeply sad movie to me.

Sometimes movies are a reflection (of the soul).

That’s why, for me, every worthwhile action movie starts with character. There have been plenty of movies that are an exception to the rule, but it still stands. You give me a character I give a shit about, whose problems and actions add layer after layer of depth and you’ve got yourself a goddamn winner in my eyes. That’s something John Wick and Chapter Two have done in spades. It’s grief and anger driving John in John Wick and it’s a struggle against the need for vengeance and to find peace that drives John in Chapter Two. Keanu Reeves allows John to emote every punch, every kick, every stab, every gunshot. We fucking feel it and with that, Keanu brings this character to life in an explosively intense manner.

The same goes for Common’s Cassian, who has a personal feud with John after John essentially takes away Cassian’s entire purpose. And Laurence Fishburne’s Bowery King, who survived a visit by the ghost, the boogeyman, the man, the myth, the legend, the Wick-er Man (i didn’t know where to go with that). Everyone has a backstory with John and now everybody has a new story with John and I am more than excited to see them in Chapter Three.

This movie invented “every man’s gotta have a code.” The world and the comic-book-level mythology of secret assassins that screenwriter Derek Kolstad has created is one of the most gleefully layered, goofy, and interesting worlds I’ve ever seen in an action movie, or movie in general. Every person has a code, every place has rules. More of these rules and codes and backstories are added without ever making the story feel bloated, only more lavish and absurd. And seeing everybody be locked down and every piece of story be driven by these codes and rules is stupidly fascinating to watch.

I was very pleased to see Chapter Two take the cool, noir vibe of the first movie and tack on more stylized action and sprinkle it with a bit of absurdity and deadpan humor. As a sequel, its very nature is to give us more of what we know and love and it’s exciting to see us get that, and also new things. Chapter Two is bigger, badder, sadder, bloodier, longer, and fucking rules all the same. The world of John Wick is ever-flourishing and I cannot wait to see John Wick sortin’ some more stuff out in Chapter Three.

Maybe the action will get so in-your-face in the third installment that John Wick will shoot me in the fucking head and I will love that millisecond of it before it’s lights out.

Chapter Two is a prime example of why the action genre is so close to my heart. It just fills me with so much excitement and strange confidence and happiness. Oh, and sadness, because holy shit this movie is filled with such a deep layer of sadness that really struck a cord with me by the end. I hope Letterboxd is still around in ten years so I can write about how much John Wick: Chapter Seven means to me.

There’s so much more I could say about this movie.. so I will.

I just want a section to bring attention to Gianna. I think she was such a fucking badass and a really great character, in only the five minutes we knew her before her suicide/execution. Great writing.

Now…

THE CATACOMBS SHOOTOUT. JOHN AND CASSIAN SILENTLY SHOOTING AT EACH OTHER IN THE SUBWAY STATION. THE “TRYING TO KILL JOHN WICK” MONTAGE. THE BARE-KNUCKLES BRAWL THAT RESULTS IN JOHN AND CASSIAN TUMBLING DOWN STAIRS FOREVER. JOHN STEALING GUNS BECAUSE HE DIDN’T HAVE AMMO. MIRROR EXHIBIT FIGHT/SHOOTOUT. JOHN NOT LETTING SANTINO FINISH HIS SENTENCE. WORLDBUILDING.

This movie is fucking magical. A perfect sequel with a unique, place-setting ending that’ll inevitably lead us into Chapter Three and I have only one request..

"Somebody PLEEEAAAASSSSEEEE… Get. This. Man. A gun.”

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