He's Kickass! Super Fun!
This is a furious drive, stab, shoot, kill, get stabbed, get shot at, fight bare handed in cars, buses, trains, underground and in optical mazes, all because you are John Wick and are being forced to honor a blood oath and are betrayed. The film is a sequel to the successful movie John Wick starring Keanu Reeves as the man in the black suit. It’s relentless action and just when you begin to wonder where this is leading to, you are plunged into a promise of bigger and better film!
When you watched John Wick in 2014, you realised that you cannot take a man’s car, and worse, his puppy. John Wick is forced to come out of retirement and mourning when a brash Russian scion of a mafia family steals his car and kidnaps his puppy for fun.
‘You have my car.’
He’s come back for his Mustang as the last of the Russians are getting ready to pack up the drugs and the cash and leave. And he takes his car, and along with the mustang, the lives of several Russian thugs, their cars, their bikes, their property. He brings back his car.
A knock on the door brings the Italian Santino D’Antonio and his impossible demand. You know it’s going to be John Wick against the Italians and before you settle down with your popcorn you stop and worry about John Wick’s puppy when the house is blown up. That’s the price to be paid for saying no.
Now the legend of John Wick also tells us of sanctuary for assassins called The Continental Hotel where membership is required and the rules are sacrosanct. Winston, the manager of the Continental reminds John that he is honor bound (by a fingerprint made in blood) to fulfil the request made by Santino. John’s retirement is not easy. He has to go to Rome and finish that task and then take on betrayal by Santino (but you knew that, didn’t you?)
The action set pieces are amazing. How Keanu Reeves gets into the skin of his character, is a lesson in fitness and you see no wirework or body double. There’s no impossible parkour where people jump from rooftop to rooftop. There is a very true and believable loading and reloading of weapons. Amazing because action movies seem to have heroes with guns that have unlimited bullets…
So does John Wick have no worthy opponent? Sort of. Common, who plays the villain Cassian is a wonderful opponent and the witty exchange between John and Cassian when they stumble into the Continental in Rome after kicking and hitting and stabbing each other is a ‘cool’ departure from the frenetic paced killing. Also the encounter with the baddies in the museum when they enter the optical maze is simply brilliant, and a great homage to 36th Chamber of Shaolin.
The fun part is waiting for John Wick’s signature kill: he is so good at improvising, no matter how many guns you have aimed at him, he can kill a person with a pencil. And the movie does not disappoint. Laurence Fishburne, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick show up in their old roles. And you feel the joy in the familiarity. The really cool clean up crew (that shows up when there are multiple dead bodies that need to be cleared out) is missing in the movie, but the really cool way of checking out if the gun has been cocked right makes up for it. All in all, the body count is high, but the joy of watching John Wick in action is better.
(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)