I can sit here all day and talk about foreign, classic and independent films. However like most audience members, sometimes I like to go the movies and just shut my brain off for a few hours. I’m no Cinema snob. I enjoy good popcorn flicks as much as the next film geek. There’s nothing better after a long productive week than to sit back and watch Keanu Reeves kick ass. That is exactly what John Wick: Chapter 2 provides.
The film opens with shots of the city. It then cuts to a wall where old Buster Keaton films are being projected. I see this as a nod to the important silent film pioneer. Check out the link below to watch some of his hilarious gags and insane stunts if you’ve never seen any of his stuff. The man was dedicated to the craft and to bringing awe and laughs to the big screen.
As these images are projected, we hear the sounds of a wreck. The camera brings us down to street level where a man is being chased by John Wick. What follows is an insane car chase of pure adrenaline, and some great moments of action. I didn’t time it, but it felt like there were at least twenty minutes of action before the title card even popped up.
Now I know a lot of people like to give Keanu Reeves shit because they don’t think he’s a good actor. I highly disagree. In the right roles Keanu Reeves really shines, and John Wick is one of those roles. It could be argued that Keanu Reeves is like a modern-day Buster Keaton, given his dedication to bringing impressive stunts to the screen and using his own physicality to great effect. Check out this behind the scenes video below from the first John Wick film if you don’t believe me.
The action throughout is top-notch, and raises the adrenaline of the first film to new heights. Once again Keanu gives his all for the film. There are countless moments of amazing gun play and hand to hand combat.
I really enjoyed the cinematography as well. This film is beautiful to look at and there are a lot of great action set pieces. There was little use of shaky cam, at least that I noticed. Also, the filmmakers have much of the action play out in wide, so that the action scenes are relatively easy to keep up with. The editing was also top-notch in this respect. It allowed plenty of time to soak shots in. Unlike some other modern action films that cut all the time for no reason (cough cough Taken 3).
I highly recommend seeing this film in theaters instead of waiting for the home release. The sound design is incredible. Sitting in the theater, you can feel all the gunshots, the cars, the punches. It was one of the most immersive experiences I’ve had in a long time. The theater chair vibrated throughout because of the sheer power of the sound in this film.
One of my favorite moments was seeing Keanu and Laurence Fishburne on-screen together again. This took me back to the days of the Matrix films, as I’m sure it will for any fan of action films. I’m not going to give away anything about Fishburne’s character, but just know he’s awesome.
Laurence Fishburne (left) and Keanu Reeves (right) in The Matrix
I really love the underground hit man world that is set up in both pictures, and is built on in the sequel. It’s crazy how these hit men interact and respect one another. I won’t give anything away, but it was interesting how much sophistication and planning goes into this underground world, and how many players are involved.
Throughout the film reflections are used as a leitmotif, although I’m not exactly sure what they symbolize. I noticed many shots that begin as a reflection of the character until the camera tilts up to face them. This all culminates in the final showdown in a mirror maze which was reminiscent of Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai and the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun.
I’ve tried not to give too much away in this discussion of the film, but I really loved the ending. I think they have set up for another great film in the John Wick franchise and I can’t wait to see it in a few years.
In the current state of Cinema we need more popcorn flicks and action films like John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 (also worth noting Mad Max: Fury Road and the Raid films). Action films that further the genre and allow it to reach new heights.
So if you’re interested in seeing some heart pounding, edge of your seat, mind-blowing action this weekend, check out John Wick: Chapter 2. And if your girlfriend is dragging you to see Fifty Shades of Shit (or whatever the sequel is called), talk her into a double bill with John Wick. You won’t be disappointed.
Written by William David Glenn IV