In 2014, Keanu Reeves starred in John Wick, written by Derek Kolstad and directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. The film follows John Wick (Reeves) a retired hitman seeking revenge after his car is stolen and his puppy (a gift from his late wife) is killed. The film was praised greatly for the artistic approach to the action scenes and with a budget of only $20 million, it went on to earn a surprising $88 million at the box office.
The anticipated sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 was released on 17th February and is still in cinemas. Written again by Kolstad and directed by Stahelski, the film takes place after the first one and we see Wick trying to be dragged back into the criminal underworld to repay a debt. When he refuses, a bounty is put on his life. Although there are many action films, John Wick has succeeded in standing out with its simple plot of revenge and epic action scenes. In the first film, we see a man taking on one of the biggest, worst criminal families because of a car and a puppy. The plot is again kept simple in Chapter 2 and the focus is on the action. Just because the plot is simple, it doesn’t mean the story is empty or boring. Wick struggles between two worlds: one with ‘normal’ people, like the audience and the other one filled with people like him, assassins, which he abandons to be with the love of his life. However his world is shattered when his wife dies of a terminal illness and he is unwillingly dragged back to his former life, not once but twice.
Kolstad has created one of the most sophisticated and inspiring criminal organizations. There are rules and regulations in this organization just as there is in any other business. The organization keeps track of jobs and offers services to hitmen and they even have their own currency: gold coins. There are also consequences for those who break rules. When Wick decides not to honor a ‘marker’ (a blood oath), it automatically gives the person who presented him with the ‘marker’ to kill him. Most of the business of the hitmen take place in the Continental Hotel, managed by Winston (Ian McShane) and once again rules are of great importance in the hotel too. This comes extremely surprising as it goes against the notion of crime itself, but Solstad’s take on the criminal world as a serious business is genius. It’s also not every day we see assassins fighting and killing wearing tailored suits but Wick never fails to dress up. This once again adds to the sophistication of the criminal organization. Even the action scenes are oozing with sophistication. They are very graphic but also minimalist. There are long takes of action, fighting, chasing and killing without interruption and this is definitely a big factor in the popularity of the film. We are gifted with long action scenes with no shaky cameras, graphic violence and sophisticated fight and gun choreographies. The importance of the action scenes can’t be stressed enough as they make the majority of the screen time and Stahelski films them so smoothly.
Like the first film, Chapter 2 has an amazing cast including Ricardo Scamarcio, Common, Lance Reddick, John Leguizamo and Ian McShane. Reeves however easily stands out and does an amazing job as the retired hitman, who despite wanting to leave his past behind seems to be too good at his job, which reveals his true nature of violence he constantly keeps denying. However, he doesn’t seem to be fooling anyone, except for himself. Although Reeves is joined by great actors and characters, this is a one man show and Reeves successfully carries the film on his shoulders. Just like the plot and action, Wick is also minimalistic in character. He doesn’t talk too much, or even listen for long either. All he wanted was a peaceful life with his puppy and car, a simple man’s dream. Although Wick’s not a complicated character to portray, it can be difficult to portray minimalist characters but Reeves does a great job by keeping his character simple but also creating a heavy presence and balancing these two.
Don’t miss out the chance to see John Wick: Chapter 2 in the cinemas.
Author: Busra Mutlu
Editor: Han Angus
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a med student tuned Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on Twitter and TikTok, both @MxKantEven, or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels.
From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.