Gun Kata (John Wick: Chapter 2 review)

I love the TV Tropes brand. It’s all about the collection of and education on popular culture, specifically as it relates to common figures of speech. The ones that best convey concepts that exist in various forms of media, like movies, or say, television.

Now for example, in action movies, it’s fairly common for guys to smash and girls to shoot things. But does this action movie fall prey to tropes? Or transcend them?

 

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common, Claudia Gerini, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Chad Stahelski
re-released on blu-ray June 13, 2017
********** 10/10

IMDB: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%, Audience Score 87%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Chad Stahelski is an American stuntman and director. It wasn’t until fairly recently that he took up the reins and decided to direct a movie, starting with  the first John Wick, and now it’s sequel John Wick: Chapter 2. More importantly, Stahelski is famous for his relationship with Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, who died from a gunshot wound during the final days of filming for The Crow. Stahelski was a good friend, and agreed to replace Lee as a stunt double, even wearing prosthetics to look like Lee, so that the movie could be completed.

He is also currently working on Triple Threat, a movie which stars Tony Jaa, Tiger Chen and Iko Uwais. That said, I think with his well established history in film that Stahelski was more then prepared to take on the action genre, and so far, it’s been to his benefit.

In case you haven’t seen 2014’s John Wick, I recommend you go and do so, because there are massive spoilers ahead.

Taken from Wikipedia and edited down –

Mere days later for, former assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is at Abram Tarasov’s (Peter Stormare) chop shop looking for his car. He demolishes Tarasov’s men, but his car is damaged in the fight. He chooses to spare Tarasov as a peace offering, and heads home.

Aurelio (John Leguizamo) fixes the car, but John is visited by Italian crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio). We learn that John was able to retire with the help of D’Antonio, and that they have a blood oath which John is required to fulfill upon request. D’Antonio presents the medallion to demand services from John, but John refuses. In a fit of rage, D’Antonio decides to take a grenade launcher to John’s house.

Winston (Ian McShane) reminds John of the two rules of the underworld, and that by breaking the oath he would be marked for death. The other rule being that every assassin has amnesty in Winston’s hotel. John reluctantly agrees and accepts the proposal, which is to assassinate  D’Antonio’s sister (Claudia Gerini), the head of the criminal group called the  “High Table”, a council of high-level crime lords. D’Antonio sends Ares (Ruby Rose), his personal bodyguard, to surveil John.

John easily infiltrates Gianna’s compound and confronts her – Gianna instead chooses to commit suicide. While retreating, D’Antonio’s men flip on John, hoping to consolidate his newfound power. Gianna’s bodyguard Cassian (Common) learns what has happened and begins a relentless pursuit.  They land at Winston’s hotel, and stop their battle at per the rules. Cassian vows revenge.

D’Antonio then opens a $7 million  contract on John and he fights his way through the city, dispatching numerous hidden assassins. He even runs into Cassian again, and wins the fight, so he can make his way to underground crime lord The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne), whose subordinates treat his injuries and guide him to D’Antonio’s location. After navigating a hall of mirrors, John forces D’Antonio back to the the Continental. But despite Winston’s warnings, John kills D’Antonio in the Continental dining room.

Winston unfortunately has to excommunicate John from the order, but gives him another marker and some time to plan his next move before doubling the contract and sending it out globally. This doesn’t phase John, who collects his dog and starts running across the city.

Oddly enough this movie manages to accomplish more then enough in the way to trope fulfillment and furnishing a thin plot to move the action ahead.

But where most action flick fall apart because of their ridiculous premise, John Wick embraces the odd and each element is considered within the framework of the already established world. We can suspend our disbelief because we don’t “really” know how the world of assassins works, but the action and dialogue are slick, allowing the most important motivation of John Wick’s revenge to shine throughout.

Pros: The rules of this world continue to be defined with great consideration and the lack of CGI create better entertainment then anything out there right now. The choreography, the cinematography, even Reeves in the role of John is deliberate.

Cons: Of course, the motivations of the first film are stronger and the action a little more frantic. This movie serves up a lot more of the same, and is a little long as a result. And then we introduce the problem of John as someone who is invincible, and with that Superman complex, a little less compelling.

Runtime: 2 hours 2 minutes

Points of Interest: Keanu Reeves is a talented martial artist, and performed almost all of the stunts himself, with the exceptions of the car crash and falling down stairs. Second time director Chad Stahelski was a stuntman in the Matrix Trilogy. Laurence Fishburne elude to their connections as co-stars of The Matrix Trilogy.

The first John Wick movie was artfully created and a sleeper hit of 2014. This movie is an excellent addition to the catalogue and another example that over-the-top budgets don’t always equal action success. The Fishburne cameo is a welcome addition and perfect demonstration of the skillful layering going in in this movie.

theories Summarized

I really enjoyed this film and I suspect that if you are an action movie fan, Keanu Reeves supporter and even interested in experiments in storytellling, then you won’t blink twice at picking this up. That said, I have to wonder where we can go from here, and hope that Stahelski can put a nice bow on these films after the third is completed. John Wick: Chapter 2 appears to be mindless fun, but it has more then enough world-building to make stand out as one of the top five movies of 2017.

Also, in case you’re looking for another movie recommendation, the latest and greatest Watch Culture vid is now up!

No more theories from me friends, I’m tapped out for the now. But come back tomorrow for some wisdom.

Tim!

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