Chad Stahelski’s JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2
A movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a symphony of violence interweaved with a bizarre criminal organization that operates in plain sight.
How this criminal organization makes money is never really made very clear. They seem to operate with a proprietary internal gold coin based economy and enforce compliance via complex rules and a shadowy upscale international organization. This organization relies on a retro style communication infrastructure employing outdated but reliable technology to communicate with henchmen (and henchwomen) located at all rungs of society.
In some ways what we have here is another "aliens living among us" tale. Here the “aliens” have evolved their own social and management hierarchy via which they maintain an opulent lifestyle for the top 1%. Somehow they retain the loyalty of mid and lower level enforcers, some of whom live as street people. Violence and gunplay are prized in this economy. Their gold coins serve double duty as currency and as vehicles for recording blood oaths of fealty.
That is where John Wick (Keanu Reeves) comes in. He still occupies his fancy house, he is still a grieving widower, but he does have a new dog. Wick is called on to do the classic “one more job” that he initially refuses. That refusal sets in motion the remaining events of the movie starting with a quick trip to Rome. There Wick is elaborately and ceremonially outfitted with a personal arsenal -- but only after he assures the powers that be that his target “... is not the Pope."
Such touches of humor, of course, are not why we go to see John Wick movies. The action sequences do not disappoint, starting with a car chase initiated by Wick in which he retrieves (and nearly demolishes) his classic car from the first film. The gunfights and hand to hand combat sequences are something to behold, especially the one that takes place through Rome's underground catacombs. They are elaborately choreographed and involve an almost endless sequence of flips, tumbles, and reloads followed by perfectly-aimed takedowns by Wick of the endless stream of bad guys.
What is it that I enjoyed about this admittedly ultra-violent but silly movie? It’s elaborately well constructed -- and ridiculous -- in terms of the criminal empire on display. Its excesses of money and class warfare do provide us mere mortals a glimpse of privilege and excess we can only dream about. The action sequences are improbable, visceral, yet they don't involve a city being demolished as we might see in a superhero or comic book movie. And we do get to see "Neo" and "Morpheus" on screen together again.
When all's said and done, I'm embarrassingly looking forward to a John Wick Chapter 3!
Review copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald