2014's John Wick brought Keanu Reeves back into the spotlight as an action star and launched a franchise, in the process. The revenge action/thriller from longtime stuntmen-turned directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski (the former going uncredited) introduced the filmgoing masses to a B-movie style underworld of assassin guilds and killers-for-hire - one which will be further explored and expanded upon in 2017's sequel, John Wick: Chapter Two.
Chapter Two picks up (literally) less than a week after the first John Wick, as a now un-retired John (Reeves) is called upon to fulfill a blood oath that he owes to an old associate, known as The Bowler King (Reeves' The Matrix costar Laurence Fisburne). John, in turn, is tasked with traveling to Rome and battling other deadly assassins, in order to help The Bowler King seize control of a powerful international assassins' guild. And yes, for the time being, it appears that John's new puppy will be safe at home while John runs around shooting people in Europe.
Two of the primary antagonists in John Wick: Chapter Two, as played by Ruby Rose (Orange is the New Black) and Riccardo Scamarcio (Burnt), respectively, are featured in one of two new images from the sequel that Empire debuted exclusively. That image, which you can see below, comes from an action sequence set in a hall-of-mirrors art installation. As Reeves explained to Empire, the scene was engineered by Stahelski and is an homage to the ending of the Bruce Lee-starring Enter the Dragon. He added:
"The whole installation is a maze of mirrors where guys can pop out and disappear. It’s very cool and a lot of fun to fight in.”
Many film buffs noted the influence of Asian martial arts cinema on the first John Wick too, in terms of how the film's various one-on-one fights are constructed (longer takes, fewer edits). The first John Wick similarly tends to stage its violence within visually-striking locales, most notably during its now-famous nightclub shootout sequence. Stahelski told Empire that the stylistic tendencies of Asian martial arts cinema, Hong Kong cinema in particular, have an even more noticeable influence on the second John Wick installment:
“You go watch any of the great Hong Kong guys, [you’re watching] wider shots; you're watching an extremely talented individual. If you're using fast editing to hide things, I call bullshit. That's cheating. Luckily, we have a cast member that can do it. Keanu’s been doing martial arts for 25 years. He's been trained by us, he's been trained by Yuen Wo Ping. He's been trained by Chen Yen.”
Stahelski's comments echo those previously made by Ian McShane (who reprises his John Wick role as Winston in Chapter Two), when he claimed that the John Wick sequel's action "looks like it was done by somebody out of Hong Kong instead of Hollywood." It's also been established that the second John Wick movie aims to not only deliver better action than its predecessor, but also much more of it. It does remain to be seen if Chapter Two has the same simple, yet effective, emotional throughline as the first John Wick (John seeks revenge for the death of his puppy - a final gift from his late wife), but so far it seems on course to deliver big in other departments.
- John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) release date: Feb 10, 2017