Movies From Swank: John Wick: Chapter 2

Will Sorg

Director and veteran stuntman Chad Stahelski understands action better than almost any other filmmaker in the industry. His direction for John Wick was a seminar on fight sequences. Each stylish, heart pounding, bloody minute of the first film in the action series was choreographed to near perfection and shot with a level of professionalism that showed Stahelski knew exactly what he was doing- just getting started.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a clear escalation of scope compared to its predecessor. Here the titular super assassin is no longer contained to the streets of New York, instead fighting Russian criminals due to a personal vendetta. Keanu Reeves’ unstoppable widower travels to Italy to fulfill a favor owed to a fellow power-hungry assassin. After he is betrayed by this assassin, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that the retired John Wick may never get
to escape from his life of violence. The story remains similar to the first film: Wick has something taken from him, he wants revenge against the person that took it, and he kills tons of people to get what he wants. Now, however, there is a whole layer of plot on top of it. A secret society of assassins, which was already built up in the previous film, serves as the center of the film’s plot. This serves as a double edged sword.
On one hand, this world of assassins is perfect for a film like this. It allows the
protagonist to face off against multiple enemies who pose a real threat to his life. This also adds a level of intrigue and mystery that gives the viewers a desire to learn more about the world the film is built around. On the other hand, this expansion of the importance of the
secret society muddles up the story a bit. The first film was incredibly straightforward and that meant it could lean on action and spectacle to tell its story. Now with all the new
information, the pace and structure is slowed down. The movie is considerably longer than the first, but not much of the added length feels necessary. The first half of the film, especially the scenes in Italy, are filled with exposition, set up and a lot of rather inconsequential action sequences. It is easily the weakest part of the film, a far cry from the hardly-a-dull-moment energy of the first film.
By the time the third act kicks in, however, everything is different. It is easy to lose yourself in pure adrenaline. The action is just as masterful as ever. Each punch, each bullet, each knife fight, is its own story. Stunt work in film is a deeply underappreciated art. These films are so incredibly fun because of Stahelski and his crew’s love for stunt work. So when an audience member gets to see that art in front of them they can start to understand why it needs to be appreciated more.

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