Dog Days

It’s far too easy to lose count of how many people John Wick kills in this sequel. Assume the number doubled from the first, possibly higher when counting those deaths lost in the shadows.

In a sense, the two John Wick offerings are reprehensible in the quantity of their violence. Skillfully composed as the actions scenes often are, there’s an unavoidable tiredness to the repetition. One in the chest, one in the head, repeated in such bunches, Keanu Reeve’s impeccable aim as a sullen hitman is akin to a videogame player.

That’s where John Wick 2 falls, a film born of the ‘80s gaming generation, slick, a bit hollow, but supremely effortless in its action heartbeat. American style perfected, where skills with a gun and a knife remain the only means to an end.

So it continues in this sequel, happening an indeterminate amount of time after the original. The first moments of John Wick 2 have a motorcycle careening onto the screen from a pan down of a silent film. An appropriate symbiosis given Wick’s voiceless (if not soundless) action, parading between one scene of slaughter to the next, told lyrically by its motion. Narrative work comes heavy on the front end, leaving the back half free to explore new methods of killing people with handguns. Knives too.

… parading between one scene of slaughter to the next…

John Wick 2 is absurdist. That’s acknowledged. Dark and moody, there’s time to play with the audacious antics, winking satirically but not directly. Wick headshots a man on stage during a concert, the crowd cheering in admiration as if to reflect the real world reaction to such violent action cinema. Later, Wick wrestles with an obese assassin, the fight so overstaged as to lean into comedy. Even the opening, with Wick’s vehicle treated as a bumper car, is enough to kill a families worth of people let alone one man.

In the absurd, the script from returning writer Derek Kolstad exudes an underside of class. High dollar assassins exist worldwide with precious codes of conduct and sip back pricey booze when off duty. They have fine suits, nice cars, and access to the uppermost tiers of weaponry. Location shoots imbue the piece with a higher stratum, from ancient underground tunnels, exotic museums, to beautiful New York scenery. With finality, John Wick pays homage to Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, a visually inventive and alluring bit of brain splattering spectacle.

This isn’t a movie outside of its expectation. John Wick: Chapter 2 does what the first did and then more, a simple sequel formula (although in this case, the dog lives). It is what people want or we wouldn’t here. What that says of western culture and the fascination with shooting things (or seeing someone shoot lots of other someones) is worthy of question. There’s cruelty in John Wick’s sunken storytelling, yet a fascination with brutality so gorgeously staged, it’s unavoidably compelling.

John Wick: Chapter 2
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Keanu Reeves continues to kill more people than should be possible in John Wick 2, and still does so with choreographed ambition.

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