John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself back in business, when he is called upon to repay a blood debt. The results of his actions set him on a collision course with the world’s best assassins. Also stars Common, Ruby Rose, Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, and Ian McShane.
Directed by Chad Stahelski
2014’s John Wick was a surprise to just about everyone who saw it - a visceral thrill ride that catapulted Keanu Reeves back to the top among Hollywood’s action stars. Helmed by first-time director Chad Stahelski, John Wick and Keanu Reeves re-infused the action genre with some gritty realism that rose above today’s pretty-boy action stars, who need CGI just to throw a punch.
John Wick Chapter 2 had much higher expectations, and while it may not surpass the original, it certainly delivers the action. The film features the same over-the-top intensity that made the first film so incredible, with some insane gun fights and the most brutal death-by-pencil scene since The Dark Knight.
Set about a week or so after the end of the first film, Chapter 2 sees John Wick trying to return to retirement. Of course, that is right after he retrieves his beloved Mustang from the few Russian mobsters left over from the original movie.
No sooner has he literally buried his guns, than a ghost from his past (Riccardo Scamarcio) returns to ask that he repay a blood debt he owes to him. That sets off a chain of events that turns his world upside down, and sets the entire assassin world after him.
John Wick Chapter 2 plods a bit in the first act (after an intense car chase opens the film), but it is necessary to establish some character background to set up the rest of the story. It truly gets going, however, when the setting shifts to Italy. From that point, director Stahelski keeps his foot on the gas, offering up one improbable action set-piece after another, all showcasing Reeves’ impeccable ability to make it all look easy.
While entertaining, it is those set-pieces that are the film’s drawback. The settings - a rave at ancient Italian ruins, a museum shootout, and a series of fights in New York City all seem too convenient, and seem to occur only because the backdrops look cool. Any logic the plot has goes out the window when these action set-pieces break out (apparently the police no longer respond to gun fights in Italy or the United States), but they sure are fun to look at.
It is a bit disappointing when you reach the end of the film and realize that the last two hours has merely been a set-up for a third installment, even if it is pretty damn entertaining.
John Wick Chapter 2 feels like a throwback to 1980s action flicks, where impossible action scenes break out in pretty places, and heroes perform incredible feats. If I remember correctly, Keanu Reeves actually starred in a few of those. Chapter 2 stands out, however, by delivering a frenetic thrill ride with action rarely seen these days. It’s become so uniquely recognizable that the stunt choreographers (as seen in the Blu-ray special features) refer to it as “John Wick-style,” a term many viewers use as well.
Chapter 2 may not be considered as good as Chapter 1, which featured a laser-focused story and a simple plot, but it is a worthy sequel. It delivers on everything you would expect, including the best special effect of all, Keanu Reeves himself. Grab some popcorn, find a place on the couch for the dog, and enjoy it.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
John Wick Chapter 2 sports an excellent high definition transfer, carrying all of the detail from the original digital image. This is a very low-light film, and yet, the blacks remain inky and clarity is strong. The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is bold, with nice surround sound and a rumbling bass that will rock your home theater.
The John Wick Chapter 2 Blu-ray features a dozen fantastic extras, which cover all of the major action scenes. Keanu Reeves, members of the cast, and the filmmakers all participate.
The extras on the disc include:
Deleted Scenes. Scenes include “Aurelio,” “The Cleaner,” and “The Vatican.” The deleted scenes include a little more of John Leguizamo’s character, and the return of “the cleaner” from the first film. Running time: 8:05
“Retro Wick: Exploring the Unexpected Success of John Wick” featurette. The cast and crew (including Keanu Reeves) discuss how the surprising success of the first John Wick opened the door to a larger story. Running time: 4:34
“Training John Wick” featurette. Before John Wick 2 opened, video of Keanu Reeves training at a gun range went viral online. That gun training is covered here, as well as a look into Reeves’ jiu-jitsu training for the film. Running time: 12:00
“Friends, Confidantes: The Keanu/Chad Partnership” featurette. Chad Stahelski has gone from stuntman on The Matrix to director of John Wick 2, and he and Keanu discuss how their familiarity with each other makes for great filmmaking. Running time: 9:54
“As Above, So Below: The Underworld of John Wick” featurette. The expansion of the John Wick universe into the assassin underworld is shown here. Running time: 5:06
“Car Fu Ride Along” featurette. John Wick’s Mustang is profiled here. The planning and filming of the chases and car stunts is shown. Running time: 4:44
“Chamber Check: Evolution of a Fight Scene” featurette. The choreography of the major fight scenes is covered here. Running time: 10:08
“A Museum Tour with Sir Jonathan Wick” featurette. The museum, the setting for the climactic gun fight, gets a closer look in this featurette. Running time: 2:11
“Kill Count” featurette. A quick edit of a running count of all of John Wick’s kills in the film is shown. Spoiler: it’s a lot. Running time: 3:09
“Dog Wick” trailer. John Wick is reimagined with a dog in the lead in this fantasy trailer. I would totally pay to see this movie. Running time: 1:37
Theatrical trailer. Running time: 1:40
Digital Copy. A code of a digital copy of the film, compatible with iTunes and the Ultraviolet service, is included.
Audio Commentary. Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski discuss the film, and it is obvious these two are friends and are comfortable with each other. Many audio commentaries are a bit bland, but Reeves goes out of his way to keep the listener engaged. He’s actually hilarious to listen to - he may just be the biggest John Wick fan of all.
John Wick Chapter 2 may not rise to the level of the first film, but even its slowest moments are light years ahead of so many modern action films. The technical presentation on the Blu-ray is first-rate, and there are special features aplenty.
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Running Time: 122 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English Dolby Atmos, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio, English 2.0 Audio Optimized for Late Night Listening
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: Three deleted scenes; “Retro Wick: Exploring the Unexpected Success of John Wick” featurette; “Training John Wick” featurette; “WICK-vizzed” featurette; “Friends, Confidantes: The Keanu/Chad Partnership” featurette; “As Above, So Below: The Underworld of John Wick” featurette; “Car Fu Ride Along” featurette; “Chamber Check: Evolution of a Fight Scene” featurette; “Wick’s Toolbox” featurette; “A Museum Tour with Sir Jonathan Wick” featurette; “Kill Count” featurette; “Dog Wick” trailer; Theatrical trailer; Digital Copy.
Audio Commentary: With Keanu Reeves and Chad Stahelski
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