There is something so very smooth about Keanu Reeves. He is the male representation of a classic martini, great steak, Miles Davis Jazz, or a 1957 Chevy. He just exudes classic, effortless cool. Nothing to macho or in your face masculine, but when you look into his eyes as John Wick, you know he isn’t messing around. This is the second time Reeves had played the retired assassin John Wick and he is better, so much better, than the first time.
Chapter 2 starts right after the end of the first John Wick. Reeves hasn’t lost a step and he has admitted that he still practices the martial arts that he learned while filming the Matrix Trilogy. He just glides from one kill to another, not expending more energy than is needed and looking incredibly efficient in the process. He has mastered the move where he disables a bad guy, holds him on the floor writhing in pain, and shoots a few other baddies only to then turn around and shoot the first bad guy in the head. And it all looks fantastic.
Director Chad Stahelski, a Matrix stuntman alum, makes every lighting, stunt coordination, soundtrack, and scene setup work together perfectly. As Wick goes around the globe during the film, some catacombs in Rome form an unbelievable background to a fight scene / shoot out between Wick and a few dozen guards. The way the music is playing and the emphasis on grunts / groans / shots being fired really drew me in. More than once I found myself thinking – “wow, look at that!” only to be outdone five minutes later with another “wow, look at that!” moment.
In the first movie, the hotel Continental in New York was a fascination. Managed by the Legendary Ian McShane, the hotel was a safe haven for hitmen. A place where no “business” could be held and a hitman could get a meal, a drink, and a doctor’s call. An assassin in the first John Wick broke this rule and was exterminated by the movie’s end. In a brilliant move, the story writer has made the Continental part of a larger universe. There is a now a Continental in Rome and it is more than implied that there are several all over the world. And all the Continentals manage assassin communications and move the money and can provide a tailer and a gun sommelier. The scene with the gun sommelier is inspired. A fantastic connection between two professionals discussing weaponry and the scene’s writing is some of the movie’s best.
The ending leaves us a little uninspired, but they are setting up for the next film. I won’t give any more than that, but this film is the best action movie of the last few years.
3.5 Stars – A Hitting a Mark recommendation.