John Wick: Chapter 2 wants you to think it’s not camp. It tries and tries and tries, with its serious faced men and its brutal action. But high class gentleman assassins? Lavish hotels serving as organizational safehouses? Sly deals executed with a wink and a handshake? Oh, it’s camp as all fuck.
After retrieving his car and wrapping up all the loose ends from ‘Chapter 1’ John is visited by a past associate, a crime boss to whom he still owes a favour. Asked to assassinate a prominent member of the loosely defined international crime community he finds himself again drawn back to his old ways. It’s the sort of thing that is praised by, ‘Oh, it creates a whole world in so few words.’ No it don’t, the script does the minimum possible work to conjure the action, ain’t a bad thing because here all that other work is done by the texture.
Because the film, and I imagine director Chad Stahelski, are in love with the physicality of the objects in this film. Kevin Kavanaugh’s production design and Luca Mosca’s costumes come front and centre here to create this world, more so than any other aspect of the film. The circles our characters move in are rarefied from the rest of the world by nature of the objects they interact with. They have the nicest suits, the nicest guns. Dan Laustsen’s camera floats serenely over them, capturing the beauty of the forms. It even set in Rome and New York, the most opulent, beautiful cities on Earth.
Golden coins, used as currency for favours in the underground, are shot with such reverence as they move from hand to hand, gilded and intricate. Everything artisanal, that which belongs here does so by that nature of its relationship to the hands of its creator. Likewise, virtue in this world comes from expertise, Wick finds nobility in being the best killer, sure he can be honourable all he likes, but honour means nothing when you can’t enact it by slaughtering the world.
I’m not gonna describe the action suffice to say it’s very very very very very good. Why diminish it by putting it into words? Chad Stahelski has been variously a stuntman and a stunt coordinator and a second unit director, this his life up on screen here and it shines. How the world of the film relates to the physical objects within it is the same as how the film itself relates to its stunt performers and choreographers. An all-out celebration of artistry.
Sure, in this case, artistry means falling over good, or throwing a punch that doesn’t really hurt someone, but you watch this and see that it’s worth every last thing that the film wants to give. After all, as far as I’m aware there’s nobody die on the set of this film, that’s allowed to be extraordinary.
It’s a film about craft, good craft and honest craft. Thank God it’s made by craftsmen.