John Wick: Chapter 2


Is there really a secret underground assassin’s enclave?

Well, if it was known, then it would not be a secret anymore. One of the earlier movies I have ever reviewed is the action movie John Wick. A movie directed by two former stuntmen, it was full of exciting action sequences. I liked the movie, I was thoroughly entertained. But there was just one problem – a certain part of the plot line bothered me.

John Wick is essentially a movie about a guy that kills dozens of henchmen in very cool ways. And the reason he does this is to avenge – wait for it – his dog and his car. Now that I think of it, it does kind of make sense. John Wick, the character, had just lost his wife. He was probably unhinged during that time where the bad guys unwisely decided to steal his car and kill his dog. His absurd actions can be interpreted in accordance with Freud’s psychoanalysis – the bad guys where unwitting and random targets for Wick’s anger and frustration against a universe that took his wife. Had any of those events taken place at another time, Wick would have responded more rationally.

In John Wick: Chapter 2 – a title that indicates there would be a sequel – the plotline is not as questionable. Wick has just gotten his car back, though not in the perfect of conditions. He does not mind, he is just happy to be a retiree ones more. Exactly a day passes, and an Italian crime lord comes knocking at his door. The crime lord is Santino D’Antonio, and he does not come bearing gifts. In fact he wants a favor returned. It seems, sometime ago, Wick had made a blood oath to D’Antonio.

The crime lord has secured Wick’s freedom from the world of assassins and hit men. In return, Wick would have to return the favor one day, whatever the cost may be. The lesson of the movie is: do not make blood oaths with gangsters. D’Antonio asks Wick to assassinate his sister, whose absence would make him the next in line for some type of underworld crime throne. Wick, after some hand wrangling, does as he is told. But that is only the beginning of his problems.

Now D’Antonio wants to get rid of the one and only person that knows who got his crime lord sister killed. As a result, an open contract (where in anyone who kills him gets paid 7 million Dollars) is initiated against Wick. Let me be clear: Chapter 2 is not for the fainthearted. The action scenes are violent. Never before have I thought there were so many ways to kill a human being: a bullet to the head is like saying hello to Wick. More exotic ways of taking someone’s life would be to take a pointed pencil to the ear or a sharp-edged blade to the groin.

I was sitting very close to the screen, so it was extra graphic for me. For all the nasty methods Wick employs to take life, he is actually a pretty decent, likable guy, with principles. Soft spoken, he chooses not to kill off all of his adversaries, preferring to reap the rewards of their friendships later. Chapter 2 takes us deeper into the world of the assassins. Where the first film took place completely in America, the sequel extends its world building to Rome. A character played by Franco Nero (who played the title character in the great Spaghetti Western Django), seeing that Wick is such a high-profile assassin, asks him, “Are you here for the Pope?” These assassins are not to be taken lightly.

The entire John Wick franchise is like an epic fantasy. World building takes place on a massive scale – another non-fantasy movie that does the same is The Godfather franchise. Despite popular belief – the world of Wick says to us – hit men and assassins do live with rules, which if broken have far-reaching consequences. Amongst other things, the underground even has its own currency.

I do not think that Chad Stahelski and David Leitch anticipated John Wick to grow into a franchise when they directed the first movie. They probably thought that getting Keanu Reeves to play the title character was great luck, and they would make the best out of the circumstance. But a lot of people loved the first film, save for me, and it became a commercial success. Quickly, a sequel was announced. The sequel is helmed by Stahelski alone, who was able to pull off a movie much better than the first one.

One of the strengths of this film, over the last one, is that the characters are drawn out more completely. Wick, in the first movie, looked more like an idiot savant with Jason Bourne-like abilities. Here, he is an accomplished assassin who, within subsequent movies, is ripe to influence a James Bond-type pop culture notoriety.

I should say it is refreshing to watch a good action movie from time to time. Action movies are starting to look more and more like the movies in the Fast and Furious franchise, where the characters routinely perform inhuman PG-13 stunts. Chapter 2, like its predecessor, is different. It is an action movie for grownups.


By Christian Tesfaye
Exclusive to Fortune  

Published on Feb 18,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 876]



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