Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Keanu Reeves stars as John Wick in John Wick: Chapter 2,

Niko Tavernise

3.5 out of 4 stars

John Wick: Chapter 2
Written by
Derek Kolstad
Directed by
Chad Stahelski
Keanu Reeves,Ruby Rose,Common

You would not expect a sequel to a Keanu Reeves shoot-em-up to be one of the more engrossing and beautiful films of the year, but hey, it's 2017 – there have been a lot of surprises. (It is also, I realize, still early in the year, but let's try to focus on the bright spots where we can.)

When the first John Wick debuted in 2014, it was received as a perfectly passable addition to the B-level action canon – a bloody jolt of gun-fetishizing violence and a fine enough showcase for a star whose career was at risk of falling into a VOD rabbit hole. (Aside from his spectacular studio bomb 47 Ronin, Reeves's filmography for the past decade consists of half-remembered dramas and completely forgotten thrillers. Unless, that is, you're a die-hard Knock Knock fan, in which case, I sincerely apologize to you, Mr. Eli Roth.)

Following the killing spree of an assassin lured back from retirement after thugs steal his car and murder his puppy (yes, the villains were capital-E Evil), John Wick was as serviceable as its title character: Sharp, to the point and with a glimmer of wink-wink, nudge-nudge fun. I didn't think about it once after the end credits rolled.

Story continues below advertisement

But John Wick: Chapter 2 comes stocked with a different arsenal altogether. Not only does it nearly double the already ludicrous body count of the original – 141 victims here, up from 84 – it has also improbably matured into a bold, visually mesmerizing treatise on high-low aesthetics. Wick shoots, stabs and strangles his way to victory in another quest for vengeance, but he does so via the most artfully arranged shots in recent cinematic memory, or at least when it comes to films in which henchmen get No. 2 pencils shoved through their ears.

Almost every frame captured by returning director Chad Stahelski is a tableaux that whisper-screams contradiction – blood-flecked killers surrounded by the neoclassical masterpieces of Rome's Galleria Nazionale, for instance, or corpses lit by a wild colour palette of indigo, ultraviolet and deep crimson red that's as much Mario Bava as Michael Mann. Contrasted against the extreme violence – itself a wild mix of jiu-jitsu, judo and something called gun-fu – you're never sure when to turn away from the screen in disgust or when to stare, deep in awe.

This surreal mix of high-gloss style and on-screen savagery even extends to the costume design, with Reeves's debonair mercenary perpetually outfitted in slim, natty suits, all monochromatic colours and intimidating high collars, care of costume designer Luca Mosca. It's as if Wick's wardrobe is a weapon in itself, contoured to the steely shape of a semi-automatic. (There hasn't been an action movie this obsessed with bespoke tailoring since Kingsman: The Secret Service, and that film was British, so it's more understandable.)

The film's delightful collision of the poetic and the profane is illustrated perfectly about midway through Chapter 2, as Wick and a new nemesis (played by sometime rapper Common) engage in a whisper-quiet gun fight in architect Santiago Calatrava's imposing Oculus, the transit terminal underneath the World Trade Center. As the two engage in a gun-silencer-aided battle amid oblivious commuters, the camera takes care to position the blood-thirsty men in Calatrava's eye-popping, alien landscape (one that will feel especially foreign to any moviegoer who has not visited New York recently; Chapter 2 is the first feature that's been allowed to shoot there, so to speak).

The scene is as extravagant as it is absurd, a sensibility that the rest of the film leans so heavily toward that it risks tipping over into complete nonsense. Except, it doesn't – and that's even with the narrative doubling down on the first entry's outlandish Masonic elements (in which seemingly every other person in the world is an assassin, and a member of the same secret organization that comes equipped with boutique-hotel privileges).

It is unclear just what cinematic re-education Stahelski embarked upon to so completely flip his first film's visuals, though it's a good bet that cinematographer Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak, Silent Hill) can take some credit. Whereas Jonathan Sela's camera work on the original John Wick was blunt and repetitive, with little to distinguish it from other action-for-dummies exploits like Max Payne or Law Abiding Citizen (both Sela films), Chapter 2 is an eye-popping feast that defies genre expectations. Granted, it would be hard to misuse the film's great locations, including Oculus but also Rome's haunting Baths of Caracalla, but Stahelski and Laustsen ensure that every shot is a careful study in refined excess.

So much so that by the time the film rolls around to an ending that is really no ending at all – John Wick 3 is surely already in development – it doesn't matter one bit. As long as Wick's world continues to look as gorgeous as this time around, let the blood flow.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies