John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Viewed February 20th

A tight-lipped hitman with nothing to live for but his dog and his stylish modernist home is pulled back into a world of violence and mayhem after the Bad Guys turn the home into a fire pit.  

John Wick: Chapter 2 amps up the already elevated levels of violence and adrenaline-pumping action from the original and includes several set pieces (the one in particular I'm thinking of is set in a psychedelic hall of mirrors video art installation) that will surely be included in the lure of action film fandom for years to come. And yet it rings a bit hollower than its predecessor and while it would be difficult to call it boring, it doesn't feel particularly satisfying while you watch it or sit well in the mind as you remember it. John Wick was not a perfect movie, but it felt fresh for its co-mingling of John Woo gun-battle cinema poetry, Matrix/Keanu Reeves soulful badass-ness, and Jean-Pierre Melville minimalist gangster ethics. It took the same referential starting point as a lot of Tarantino, but ended up in a moodier, scrappier place. The conceit that everyone loved about Wick going on a revenge bender because they killed his dog felt true in the original and that truthfulness carried you through the action and violence--it filled out the world and made it feel like a place you could walk around within. In the sequel, they try to conjure a similarly minimal scenario but it feels shoehorned in--clearly just an excuse to watch John Wick kick ass and constantly shoot A LOT of people in the head with his guns. Keanu Reeves is, again, oddly great. He's stiff and awkward, sort of alien in a way that seems like it might not work, but it's Keanu Reeves--he's this great movie star whose presence seems genuine, you buy that he is this dude, so he does his part in that he opens the portal to the world of the movie through his eyes; it's just too bad that, in this case, that world (despite the fact that it tries to include more detail and texture for itself as a cinematic world) feels relatively inorganic and cynical compared to the original.