Niko Tavernise / Lionsgate
Keanu Reeves broke out the black suit and slicked back the hair last weekend for “John Wick: Chapter 2,” the follow-up to 2014’s sleeper action hit that saw the “Matrix” star go full-on assassin mode after thugs kill his puppy and steal his ride. The second time around features more of the same — not necessarily a detriment for a stylized action film — while building on the cleverly crafted world that made the first film stand out. More surprising, however, is how the sequel also manages to capture a particular visual snapshot of style, fashion and what is cool in the 2010s.
The first “John Wick” took an odd pride in how pared down the narrative reasoning behind Wick’s cinematic henchman massacre was. It instead substituted any lack of a standardized story arc by developing a playful alternate reality where hitmen have their own currency and adhere to strict rules about where they can and cannot do business (with special attention paid to exemplary customer service). Still, action was the priority of the movie, so these dealings were only present enough to keep the setting between gunfights interesting.
With an additional 20 minutes on the runtime of the first movie and the groundwork of the secret society (though secret civilization may be more apt) already in place, “John Wick: Chapter 2” spends more time fleshing out its reach. Orders for hits are placed through switchboard operators with a workplace dress code that seems to mandate peach-hued pinup attire and exposed tattoos. Wick and another industry connection abruptly stop trying to kill each other to share gentlemanly cocktails at a bar after their fight spills into a Continental hotel, their profession’s hallowed ground.
Everything is sleek, and there’s little grit to go around for an action movie. Though at times bloodied and disheveled, Wick is almost always clad in a suit, and the climax of the movie has him fighting charcoal vest-wearing Dan Bilzerian lookalikes with manbuns and assault rifles. The firefight tears through an installation of brightly lit mirrors in a modern art museum rather than a steamy nondescript warehouse typical of ’80s-era action.
All this creates a very tailored atmosphere, an action movie equivalent of Brooklyn bars with hidden entrances that only the cool and informed will be aware of and hang out in. It’s a world of in crowds and out crowds built up on exclusivity and the benefits of membership, and excommunication from this realm is a punishment second only to death (and an order handed down in the same fashion as placing a hit).
Wick himself is detached from these silly conventions of course, and that he so quickly and ruthlessly dispatches throngs of Instagram-ready henchmen has its own commentary to offer. Nevertheless, in the style present in moments both between and within its gunfights, “John Wick: Chapter 2” is a window into 2017 that can be reopened years from now for a glimpse of the hipsterdom we live in today.
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