‘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!”

‘The Guest’ Review

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Dir: Adam Wingard

Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Tabatha Shaun, Joel David Moore, and Lance Reddick

Synopsis: A soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence

 

 

 

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

 

 

The team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett is one that I’m starting to fully invest in. They caught eyes of general audiences with You’re Next and segments in V/H/S and its sequel. But they also made a highly enjoyable survivor thriller A Horrible Way to Die but with this new movie The Guest, Wingard who serves as the director and Barrett as the writer, they bring a great homage to the old movies of James Carpenter and 70s and 80s horror/thriller films.

 

The movie starts off with Laura Peterson (Kelley) who is grieving over the death of her son Caleb when a mysterious charming man shows up calming to be an old army friend named David (Stevens). He quickly wins over the family that includes the bullied son Luke (Meyer), rebellious daughter Anna (Monroe), and frustrated husband Spencer (Orser). Soon though, we start to realize that David is not who he says he is and terrible things start to happen.

 

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Almost like You’re Next, The Guest shares the same vibe as a movie from the 70s and 80s. It’s got action, dread, mystery, some dark comedy and catchy synthesizer music. Wingard knows exactly what he’s doing and finds the balance of all the tones running through the movie and manages to make every one of those moments enjoyable and fun to watch. It does have a rough part right before the final act but the nice thing is that even the characters are aware of it and even rolls their own eyes. In any other movie it would seem too self aware and cheesy and it is here, but considering the rest of the movie, it’s actually welcomed.

 

But The Guest isn’t just defined by its tone or feel, but by the performance of Dan Stevens. Stevens is wildly known for his performance in Downton Abbey, but never seeing the show, I can assume that this is nothing compared to what he’s done there. Stevens does a fantastic job of balancing David’s personalities through the movie. He has his charm about him and calls people “sir” and “ma’am” but the time it takes for him to get you to like him, David can switch to a menacing demeanor, which was truly frightening in some occasions. The nice thing is that he never really overdoes it and makes the movie hard to watch, in the sense that you never know what’s going to happen when David enters a room.

 

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The hard part is deciding what you think of David. He acts as a defender to the Peterson family – deals with some bullies for Luke – but since his actions are so brutal, it makes you think if the Petersons made the right choice in bringing in David or not. But, again, Stevens’ performance is so well done that you end up rooting for him, even though his actions are very exciting but brutal.

 

The other performances are a little hard to judge since we spend a lot of time with Stevens, and even when he’s not on screen the movie kind of slows down. Lance Reddick shows up as a man from David’s past and does what he can with the role but really goes nowhere expect to tell Anna about David. Brendan Meyer as Luke Peterson sees David as a friend and possibly surrogate brother as David teaches Luke to stand up for himself. Meyer does okay as the younger brother who finally finds someone he can talk to and a friend.

 

Finally there is Maika Monroe as Anna. The role really could have gone the way of Anna being a bit bitchy, but instead Anna is a bit standoffish, which is understandable once you understand the dynamic of the family. As the movie progress she suspects that David isn’t really who he says he is and rapidly sees David is a different light. Monroe is a relativity newcomer and manages to hold her own against Stevens. One particular scene stands out to me around the halfway point when Anna confronts David about who he is.

 

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All in all, The Guest has a great mixture of tones and pays a nice homage to other films from the past. With a great score and performance by Dan Stevens, The Guest is a fun, scary, and enjoyable ride from start to finish.

 

 

The Guest

4.5 out of 5