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John Wick: Chapter 2
Basically picking up where the first film left off, John Wick Chapter 2 beings with our titular assassin (once again played by Keanu Reeves) in a quest to get his car back from the Russian mob that made his life so difficult in the first place. With that taken care of, he intends to go back into retirement once and for all after handing his damaged Mustang over to Aurelio (John Leguizamo) and burying his gear in the basement of his New Jersey home. That all changes when a man named Santino D'Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up at his door. See, sometime in the past Santino helped Wick retire the first time around. In return, he gave him a marker (essentially a blood marked talisman) that he could turn in for a favor. According to the rules, this favor must be granted. John doesn't see it that way, and without even hearing what Santino wants, he sends him on his way. Or so he thinks. Santino feels differently and a few minutes later has levelled John's house.
After talking it over with Winston (Ian McShane), John realizes he doesn't have much of a choice. He meets Santino at the museum and learns that he wants Wick to kills his sister, Gianna D'Antonio (Claudia Gerini). Since their father recently passed away Gianna is next in line to succeed him in his now vacant seat at the ‘high table.' Santino wants that spot for himself, in hopes of eventually controlling all of New York City's assassin related underworld. Begrudgingly, Wick gets outfitted for some new gear and some new suits and heads to Italy where he takes up residence at The Continental in Rome, run by Winston's Italian associate Julius (Franco Nero). After he makes a few connections, Wick has all the firepower he could want and maps of the D'Antonio's estate. He makes his way in and gets the kill he needs to hopefully once again retire, but he learns very quickly while making his escape that he's been set up…
Once again directed by Chad Stahelski and written by Derek Kolstad, the same creative team behind the first picture, John Wick Chapter 2 works on the same level as that earlier picture. It's slick, it's stylish, it's suspenseful and it's insanely violent. The movie starts off with an intense car chase that's as much a fight as anything else in the film, almost all of it taking place inside a massive NYC warehouse. From there, we slow down just long enough to setup the main plot and the conflict between Wick and D'Antonio, and then we're off. We get a twists and turns along the way, of course. There's Cassian (Common), the man in charge of keeping Gianna safe out to pay Wick back in kind, and then there's Santini's right hand woman, a petite but deadly deaf assassin named Ares (Ruby Rose) and then there's the involvement of another high ranking professional killer dubbed The Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) but the bulk of the story once again revolves around Wick getting back at those who have messed with him. Which is as it should be. The first film and this sequel never needed to be deep to work, and so they're not. We get as much character development as we need but when it comes down to brass tacks, it's the action set pieces and the remarkably cool visual style that makes the picture worth checking out.
The cast all do fine work here. Reeves is once again cast in a role that really seems tailor made to both his strengths and his weaknesses as an actor. His John Wick is a man of few words and much action, the coolest of the cool. He's smart, he's resourceful, but he's quiet, able to say as much with a subtle nod than reams of dialogue. He's great in the part: suave, deadly and slicker than grease. Playing off of this is Riccardo Scamarcio as Santini, a man who quickly realizes he's in over his head and how lets his confidence get the better of him. He makes for a fine foil, while supporting work from Common and Ruby Rose as two competing assassins also just adds to the fun.The Blu-ray:
John Wick Chapter 2 arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.40.1 widescreen. As this was shot on high end digital video cameras there's obviously no problem with print damage or dirt. As to the detail and texture offered by the transfer, it's pretty strong across the board though keep in mind that this film is very dark in style and that there are times where post production color tweaking to keep that dark style moving can sap out some detail. Thankfully, that's the exception rather than the rule and most of the movie looks great, showing very nice detail, depth and texture, there are just a few shots that don't quite get there for the reason just explained. The disc is free of any obvious edge enhancement and there are no problems to note with any serious compression artifacts and black levels are solid. Color reproduction, when not tweaked, looks good and when tweaked looks… slick. This is a nice looking movie, it's just not always all that natural looking. It definitely works in the context of the story told though and once you get used to the movie's style, it really starts to grow on you. This transfer is rock solid and it suits the movie perfectly.Sound:
The main track on the disc is an English language Dolby Atmos 7.1 track although a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix is also provided as are an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track and dubbed option in Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Subtitles are available in English SDH, English and Spanish. The Atmos track (and the TrueHD track as well) on the disc is fantastic and it's pretty much constantly reference quality. The aggressive sound design in the movie doesn't just stem from the bullets in the shootout scenes but from the cars, the background noise in busier locations, and the impressively weighty score. The movie's very few quiet scenes have nicely balanced levels and the dialogue is crisp and clear throughout but it's the near constant barrage of action sequences that really shine here. Bass is strong and powerful without burying other elements and the gun shots pack real firepower. The audio quality on this disc is perfect.Extras:
Extra on the disc start out with an audio Commentary featuring leading man Keanu Reeves and director Chad Stahelski. Lots of interesting detail here as they discuss the details of bringing John Wick back for another round after the success of the first movie. They share some stories about the effects and stunts set pieces, express their admiration for the accomplishments of the various cast and crew members affiliated with the production and quite a bit more. It's an interesting and well-paced track.
From there we move on to a series of (mostly shorter) featurettes that explore various aspects of the production starting with Retro Wick: Exploring The Unexpected Success Of John Wick. In this five minute piece various cast and crew members wax nostalgic about the surprise box office gold that the first film struck and how they feel about it. It's a fun piece, if not particularly deep. More interesting is the twelve minute long Training John Wick piece. As you'd expect, the focus here is on the fight choreography used to bring the movie's action scenes to hyper-intense life and the training that the various participants involved in said fight scenes underwent to make it happen. Wick-vizzed is five minute piece that basically shows off a selection of rehearsal footage clips while Friends, Confidantes: The Keanu/Chad Partnership is a pretty great ten minute segment that explores the working relationship that director and leading man and, yes, the friendship that they have shared since getting to know one another when, prior to getting into the director's chair, Stahelski worked as Reeves' stunt double on The Matrix films. As Above, So Below: The Underworld Of John Wick is a look at the assassins that populate the film and the lives they lead that clocks in at five minutes while the five minute Car-Fu Ride Along takes us behind the scenes of the set piece in the film where that Mustang just gets trashed. Chamber Check: Evolution Of A Fight Scene is a ten minute featurette that once again focuses on the behind the scenes aspect of the hand to hand combat and gun play scenes, with some pretty interesting footage that shows off how it was done. The eight minute Wick's Toolbox explores some of the gadgets and weapons and heavy duty fire power that the lead employs throughout this second chapter, while A Museum Tour With Sir Jonathan Wick is a quick two minute art gallery tour.
Lionsgate has also included just over eight minutes of deleted scenes, presented here in semi-unfinished form with time code over top. These are interesting to see but at the same time they're not really all that integral and it's understandable, after watching them, why they were trimmed from the final cut. Aside from that we get a trailer for the feature, a faux-trailer for Dog Wick, a three minute Kill Count piece that recaps every single one of the kills in the movie, trailers for a few other Lionsgate properties, animated menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie in the Blu-ray case as well as a download code for a Digital HD copy of the film. The case fits nicely inside a cardboard slipcover that features identical artwork to that used on the case's cover slip.Final Thoughts:
John Wick Chapter 2 is a rare sequel that's every bit as good as its predecessor. This is slick, smart, intense and action packed, a ridiculously entertaining picture made with a great cast and loaded with impressive action set pieces. Lionsgate has done an excellent job bringing this one to Blu-ray, presenting it in gorgeous shape with amazing audio and plenty of extras. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.