‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ Review

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Director: Chad Stahelski

Writer: Derek Kolstad

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarico, Common, Ruby Rose, Lance Reddick, Claudia Gerini, Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne

Synopsis: After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Back in 2014, the first John Wick came out and everyone was surprised how great it was. It could have easily gone under the radar as a dumb fun action thriller with Keanu Reeves getting revenge of the people that killed his dog. But, the film became an instant favorite with everyone that watched it because of the crazy action/fight sequences with “gun-fu” and how the film felt like a throwback to the eighties and early nineties action films. So, when it was announced that John Wick: Chapter 2 was happened, fans eagerly waited what The Boogeyman’s next adventure would have in store. Little tease – lots and lots more of headshots.

Chapter 2 opens up with a long action sequence that follows John Wick (Keanu Reeves) getting his car back, and once he gets it back he returns home where once again put his guns and gold coins away so he can live out his retirement. Of course, nothing is that easy in this world, and gets a visit from an old acquaintance in Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) who is calling in a favor, blood markers as they call them, that Wick owes him. The catch is if Wick doesn’t do it, he will be killed or despite declining the offer John eventually does do the favor which ends up with him getting a bounty placed on his head. Watch follows is John Wick doing what he does best.

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John Wick: Chapter 2 wastes little time throwing us back into the world of the mysterious assassination guild that involves The Continental. What was just teased and mentioned in the first film is fleshed out just a bit more here. Of course, not everything is explored and answered, which adds a fun layer to the film, but not knowing everything is what makes the film so damn fun. I mean, seeing John Wick shooting people in the head is a hell of a lot of fun too, the world this film takes place in is great to explore too.

Like the first film, Chapter 2 is carried by Keanu Reeves, who let’s face it, was born to play John Wick. Reeves continues to play Wick as a calm, collective and quiet kick-ass hitman who loves headshots. While the character isn’t as conflicted here like he was in the first film, there are a couple of moments that show John Wick’s humanity. Seriously, I can watch Reeves shot people in the head for three hours and not get bored.

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The rest of the cast is hit-or-miss. Riccardo Scamarcio’s D’Antonio just gives off villain-vibes and is somehow easily unlikeable. Ruby Rose plays Ares, a mute henchwoman that tussles with John throughout the film, Common plays Cassian, a guard to Gianna D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini), who gives John a run for his money on multiple occasions. Ian McShane and Lance Reddick have just a little more to do than they did the first time around and Laurence Fishburne as The Bowery King, although he’s never referred to as that, is someone who has a history with John and doesn’t appear until the end of the second act of the film, but it was awesome to see Reeves and Fishburne together on the big screen again.

All in all, John Wick: Chapter 2 is a damn good fun time. The action is pumped to eleven and the world building continues to help elevate the world introduced in the first film. I think as long as Keanu Reeves can keep doing the intense action scenes, I’ll be down for ten more John Wick films.

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John Wick: Chapter 2

4 out of 5

‘John Wick’ Review

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Dir: David Leitch and Chad Stahelski

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick and Ian McShane

Synopsis: An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

John Wick is one of those movies you would most likely not give a second look. The premise behind it is a tad wonky: An ex-hitman goes on a killing spree because they killed his dog. However, John Wick is a ton of fun and the action is so out there that you almost can’t help but enjoy yourself and have fun.

 

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John (Reeves) is mourning the death of his wife Helen (Moynahan) when he receives a puppy. The puppy, named Daisy, was her way for making sure John could cope with her loss. John looks like he’s doing okay until he goes out and ends up at a gas station where he encounters three gangster lead by Iosef (Allen). What seemed like just a minor annoyance becomes more when they break into his house, beat him up, kill the dog and steal his car. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst, to them, John Wick is a retired hitman who managed to get out of the life, but before he did, he was considered “the person you send to kill the Boogeyman.” Wick then comes out for one last job of revenge and will stop anyone who gets in his way. He then finds out that Iosef is the son of a kingpin that he use to work for in Viggo (Nyqvist).

 

The interesting thing about the movie is that is throws you into the criminal underground world. When Iosef steals Wick’s car he takes it to a chop-shop owned by John Leguizamo’s Aureilo, who immediately knows whose car is it, punches him and demands he leaves. When Aureilo gets a call from Viggo and asks for answers, he tells him what his son did and gets a reaction which borderlines funny, ridiculous, and serious. Wick never runs into anybody that isn’t a killer. He even stays at a hotel known as The Continental, which is run by Management, and is a safe haven/hotel for killers. There are also transactions done by gold coins. They have a code pretty much. This could also be a bit of a negative because when you see all of this, you kind of want to know more about this society, but we are left following John Wick killing people, which is okay.

 

Reeves could have gave Wick a wooden performance and taken the role to serious or even not serious enough. But Reeves gives a good range of emotions throughout the movie. Someone mentions that John looks vulnerable for the first time and Reeves actually gives us that. You do believe that John Wick was this most feared assassin by the way everyone treats him and takes him coming after Iosef seriously.

 

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Isoef (Alfie Allen) and Viggo (Michael Nyqvist)

 

The villains are rounded up by Michael Nyqvist’s Viggo, Adrianne Palicki’s Perkins, Daniel Bernhardt’s Kirill and Dean Winters’ Avi. Nyqvist is a no nonsense kind of guy and even punches his own son and calls him out when he finds out what he did. Winters doesn’t have a lot to do but give a couple comedic lines and be Viggo’s personal assistant. Bernhardt becomes Iosef’s protector and has some great fight sequences with John Wick. Palicki unfortunately is kind of forgettable, which is a shame because I do like her.

 

Willem Dafoe and Ian McShane pop up as old friends to John and are the last “members of the old guard.” But are only in the movie for short amount of times, but are still welcomed additions. Even Alfie Allen, who is the major reason why the events of the movie takes place disappears often and by the time he comes back you wish Wick would just kill him.

 

Of course, you’re not going to watch this movie for the acting. You’re going to watch this movie for the balls to the wall action. Well, you’re in luck because John Wick has that and then some. It’s appropriate because the movie is directed by stunt men David Leitch and Chad Staheiski, which shows during the action sequences because they are done so well and filled with combinations of martial arts and gun-play (or ‘Gun Fu’ as some call it) which leads to some brutal and some satisfying deaths.

 

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John Wick (Reeves) vs. Kirill (Daniel Bernhardt)

 

The action is great and you’re giving time to enjoy it. Killing for John is almost second nature. He makes kill after kill with extreme precious and doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone that has the great misgiving by being in front of him. One particular action sequence stands out to me and has a great combination of action choreography, background music, and cinematography. They care about the action and none of the fight scenes have shaky cam which action/fight fans will most likely appreciate. However, I will say the last shootout is a bit underwhelming, especially after the other scenes.

 

All in all, John Wick does have some missteps but overall is a hell of a ride. The story might not be sound or all there but the action sure as hell makes up for it.

 

John Wick

4.5 out of 5

"Yeah, I'm thinking I'm back!"

“Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back!”

‘Hercules’ Review

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Dir: Brett Ratner

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Reece Ritchie, Rebecca Ferguson, Peter Mullan, and John Hurt

Synopsis: Having endured his legendary twelve labors, Hercules, the Greek demigod, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

We are all pretty much familiar with the character of Hercules. Whether it be the animated Disney film or the Kevin Sorbo TV series from the 90s, Hercules is one of those characters we know. This is the second Hercules film this year and while I didn’t see The Legend of Hercules early this year, his adaptation of Hercules take both the legend of the hero and takes its basis from the Steve Moore comic book called Hercules: The Thracian Wars and adds a little more.

 

Director Brett Ratner explores a different view of the legend known as Hercules. Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules doesn’t work alone. He has five loyal to the core followers that have helped him finish his infamous 12 labors. But the main thing Ratner does here is he walks the line between the legend and the actual man. The question he offers is if Hercules really is the son of Zeus. Can one man do all this amazing things or are they all exaggerations?

 

In Hercules, Hercules and his group of mercenaries; Amphiaraus (McShane), Autolycus (Sewell), Tydeus (Hennie), Atalanta (Berdal) and Iolaus (Ritchie) are asked by Lord Cotys (Hurt) daughter, Ergenia (Ferguson) to help them save Thrace from a civil war started by a war lord. It’s a rather simple story, Hercules and his group go and help Cortys farmers becomes actual soldiers to go to war.

 

Johnson obviously looks the part and add some of his charisma, and you have a likeable Hercules. But he isn’t just dealing with saving Thrace, Hercules is also dealing with tragic past, making sure he keeps composure to his men and Cortys’s army, and keep up his legacy.

 

But Johnson wouldn’t be able to do that without his group of warriors. They all serve their purpose and have moments to shine on their own or together. Ritchie’s Iolaus is Hercules’s nephew and is the mouth piece of the group, his job is to talk up Hercules and his stories to make his seem larger than life. Although not a warrior he wants to prove himself to his uncle and the group. Hennie’s Tydeus doesn’t talk through the movie and is a bit unstable but is a skilled fighter. Berdal is the only female fighter but is excellent with a bow. Sewell’s Autolycus is Hercules’s oldest friend and skilled with small knives. Finally there is McShane’s Amphiaraus who is a mystic but still kicks a lot of ass his very cool weapon.

 

We get some back stories on them but it doesn’t really seem like enough. I’ll admit I think I would watch a side story or prequel with those characters just so I can get to see more of them. They are a cool group so it’s a shame to not really get to know them. McShane and Sewell get most of the screen time and share nice quips and add in most of the humor in the movie.

 

Speaking of the humor, there is a great deal of it. Not saying that it’s a bad thing, it’s actually welcomed. The movie has a fair amount of violence and a couple of darker moments, so seeing Sewell and McShane delivering some hilarious one-liners was nice to see.

 

The action scenes are pretty impressive. The sets are real so it gives the scenes some more levity and makes you feel immersed in the movie. The scenes are cool to look at and I almost feel sorry for everyone involved because there is so much going on that it makes you feel like it was a pain to shoot.

 

The movie of course does have some drawbacks. Besides the supporting characters not really being fleshed out, John Hurt is almost completely wasted but does leave an impression because he does his best with the character that he can. Rebecca Ferguson’s Ergenia has her moments but otherwise isn’t really a main player. The other problem, and it might seem nitpicky, but some of the CGI is a bit wonky and kind of took me away considering how much work they put into the set-pieces, clothing, and armor. But, it’s the question of is Hercules really a demigod or not, that kind sort of makes it stand out but also hurts it in some way.

 

All in all, Hercules was a little better than I thought it would be but by no means is it a great one (no pun intended). Dwayne Johnson is Hercules and some of the supporting cast is great. Even with some drawbacks, the movie has it’s fun and funny moments but overall is nothing more than an average action movie.

 

 

Hercules

3.5 out of 5