Tuesday, March 7, 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2 Review

I love the way the two John Wick films feel like they belong in the fantasy genre despite featuring real locations filled with real people including a protagonist dealing with real, powerful grief. When one hears the word fantasy they are immediately prone to think of wizards or hobbits or fictional galaxies far, far away, but for me it works for anything that feels removed from reality and the rules John and those around him play by are not soaked in realism, nor should they be. A ballet of bullets blasting through the air, violence almost feels beautiful and poetic during the immensely well choreographed sequences in both John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2, and like most action films the concern for innocent bystanders is removed from the equation but with these films it's like it was never even a consideration to be factored in in the first place. Whether John moves through a crowd of people dancing or engages in a deadly fight while on a train, those that look on feel like spectators in the same way we in the audience are because the only people in danger are those that stand in his way, and police intervention is never truly taken into account as a possibility. Even when law enforcement does arrive, it is through vague inference and minimal dialogue that we gather that an understanding exists that they know exactly what John is doing and they have no intentions of trying to stop it.

Currency exchanged throughout the film doesn't appear as stacks of dollar bills but rather a single gold coin and it is understood by these characters that whatever the value is, it is sufficient to pay for his attire or supplies or perhaps vital information needed to find his target. This entire underworld of crime bosses and assassins run through the Continental Hotel which itself has its own rules, one very specific and notable one that prohibits bloodshed on the property regardless of what grudges are held or what unfulfilled missions are ongoing involving those whom are staying in it at the same time. This concept reminded me of growing up playing role playing video games like the Final Fantasy franchise in which no matter what creatures or villains were out there trying to get you, a step inside a peaceful town served the purpose as a sanctuary, the guarantee of a nights rest and the opportunity to acquire what is needed for the journey ahead.

When a contract goes out for a new target, the call runs through an old fashioned switchboard and seemingly every person in every frame gets notified on their cell phone, which of course seems silly unless you approach John Wick as fantasy. These sequences were reminiscent of Walter Hill's cult classic The Warriors in that a heavily populated New York City is seemingly owned by the rival gangs and little else, as John isn't being stalked by merely a single face in an enormous crowd but rather the crowd itself, a world where assassins are around every corner and he must kill every single one of them with intentions of collecting the bounty. The irony of these films is that the most mocked aspect of their premise is that John started his quest for vengeance after the death of his dog, yet for me this concept is the most grounded and realistic thing about these pictures, and I love the way they represented the depth of John's pain in John Wick: Chapter 2 by introducing a new companion but one he refuses to name, perhaps a method to avoid the level of attachment that ends in heartbreak.

Directed by Chad Stahelski whom has an incredible eye for filming brilliant action sequences against vibrant backdrops, with familiar faces returning for round two while also bringing in new characters like villain Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) and assassins hunting John down named Ares (Ruby Rose) and Cassian (Common), if you loved the first John Wick film you will not be disappointed returning to this world. Endlessly entertaining and deliciously violent with the certainty of a third (and hopefully final) film on the way, the second piece of the John Wick trilogy takes the stylized brutality of the first picture and utilizes an expanded budget to upgrade the scale and scope of the experience and it delivers.


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