A few weeks ago, I received an unusual invitation: would I like to attend the John Wick: Chapter 2 World Premiere in Los Angeles? The answer, obviously, was: Hell yes! I loved John Wick, and have been a longtime fan of Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, and Ian McShane, not to mention the director of both films, Chad Stahelski (who you can see beside me in this photo from a meeting before the premiere).
I’ll be honest up front. I’m a little biased. My connection to the director, appreciation for the actors, and red carpet (it was black) treatment make my opinions suspect. But I’m a long-time action movie junkie, I write some of the fastest-paced novels there are (so I have a rep to protect), and I am generally an honest guy. If the movie sucked, I’d tell you.
Good news, the movie doesn’t suck. In fact, as much as I enjoyed John Wick, I found the sequel even more compelling, shocking, and action-packed.
The plot, like the first movie, is straight forward. John Wick is the human equivalent of a claymore mine whose enemies crouch down, read the “front toward enemy” text and then yank the wire, unleashing a brick of living C4 and ball bearings in their own faces. The movie starts with a bang as Wick fights to recover his car from the first movie, and not just because he loves the car so much, but because of the memory and precious cargo it contains.
John Wick is a killer, but he also has a heart. Well, a broken heart.
In the wake of his forced non-retirement from the first movie, (yeah, he’s thinking he’s back) a debt is called in on Wick, forcing him a step further away from the peace and quiet he desires so deeply and into direct conflict with an army of thugs, a gaggle of assassins out for his blood, and a mastermind attempting to control a chunk of the underground empire from which John Wick is attempting to retire.
If you saw the first movie, you have an idea of how things play out. The claymore detonates, shredding enemies with slick, stylized “gun-fu” that’s unique to the Wick movies. At 52, it’s impressive to see Keanu kicking, flipping, punching, sliding, driving, and shooting his way through long, uncut fight sequences that feel like violent poetry.
At its core, John Wick: Chapter 2 (like its predecessor) is a mythological story. His life and exploits are the stuff of legend. Like that time he used a number 2 pencil to…well, you’ll just have to see for yourself. He’s Odysseus battling through the Odyssey and being brutalized along the way. Like Odysseus, John Wick even has his very own Argos (dog), who waits for his eventual return.
Visually, the movie is stunning.
Like most of my favorite movies, a lot of attention is given to the composition of every shot. The use of color is vivid and it’s used to affect the audience’s mood as much as the music. I can still see several of the shots in my mind, like paintings I stopped to admire, capturing the movie in a series of key images.
The end of the movie leaves you wanting more. A lot more. And if the film does as well as I think it will, I suspect we’ll see a John Wick 3 on the horizon, which I already mentally refer to as John Wick: Chapter 3: What Have You Done? That will make sense in a few days (after you’ve seen the movie).
So if you’re an action fan, aren’t squeamish around violence and gore, and appreciate gun-fu style fighting, you are in for a treat. John Wick: Chapter 2 is adrenaline-rush fun, beginning to end. It’s not going to make you cry, reconsider your life choices, or believe in a higher power. It’s going to entertain the crap out of you. And that, in this time of recycled movies (John Wick and the sequel are original stories—gasp!) is rare and worth supporting.
News about why I was invited to the event will be forthcoming…eventually. Bide your time waiting by going to see John Wick: Chapter 2!
I give John Wick: Chapter 2, five out of five Nemesis heads.
What do you think? Did you enjoy John Wick? Are you looking forward to the sequel?