A gentle, thoughtful examination of one man’s quest to escape his past. A heart-wrenching narrative about how your mistakes can catch up to you when you least expect them to. An erudite examination of the moral conflict that occurs when your goals pit you against the ones you respect.
Yeah, no, that’s not John Wick: Chapter 2. It does have all the above elements, but they’re framed by violence that is almost poetic in its choreography. I will write my disclaimer now, and say that John Wick: Chapter 2 is not meant for people who enjoyed the emotional poignancy of movies like Silver Linings Playbook or Dallas Buyers Club; it is a symphony of beautifully-orchestrated savagery that will appeal to anyone who has enjoyed shows like Pacific Rim, Equilibrium, or Blade. It’s a tale of revenge that will please the most bloodthirsty audience.
The film’s premise is straightforward enough, and thoroughly satisfying in a visceral sense. One trope that is completely overturned is how you have a snotty little turd who should be glassed, but gets away scot-free because the protagonist is compelled to be “better” than what they’re fighting – a moral superiority which leads to anaemic, lacklustre confrontations with enemies. Overly smug antagonists get exactly what they deserve in John Wick, and the film ties up all its plot lines into a neat bundle at the end of the film, while leaving some possibilities open.
The combat draws from Paul Castle’s Center Axis Relock (CAR) system, an actual close-quarters battle technique developed for law enforcement personnel to increase their effectiveness in combat. The titular John Wick demonstrates it to its full effect in short, sharp, interwoven vignettes of brutality. Refreshingly, the film also attempts to adhere to realism: John Wick runs out of bullets, has his gun jammed, gets shot or stabbed, and encounters any number of threats that could happen in the chaos of a fight. He does not simply breeze through, unlike protagonists of many other films – striding triumphantly through a battlefield as their enemies fall like chaff before them.
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a thoroughly fulfilling tale of revenge, with a straightforward plot and an ending that ties up many loose ends while hinting at more. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys some good choreography.