The sequel to the wildly surprising gun-fu action flick John Wick picks up right where the original left off, both in terms of plot and aesthetic. The signature stylistic elements of the original are all here: extensive worldbuilding, lengthy camera shots, and heavily-choreographed fight scenes more reliant on stunt work than on CGI. The sequel extends these elements, but also has some unique ideas as well. The locations where John Wick fights are far more varied in the sequel, and which not only makes the background more colorful and interesting, but indicates John Wick’s own personal struggle in the film. John Wick: Chapter 2 is a thoroughly successful continuation of the series, remaining true to the magic of the original, and expanding upon it in intelligent ways.
The best action movies succeed by crafting sequences with jaw-dropping visuals and physical stunts, hopefully with characters that we care about and in a way that advances the story. More and more often, action movies in this century lean hard on the crutch of CGI to dazzle us, and usually they are happy to dispense with the story and characters in favor of large explosions, cartoonish monsters, and entire sequences “filmed” in a computer program. Used well, CGI is a powerful tool which can instill a film with detail, and acts to enhance that which appears on the screen – but we seldom see such restraint (the revelatory Mad Max: Fury Road is the most recent exception). In light of this trend, it is an absolute and almost visceral pleasure to experience The Raid from director Gareth Evans. The Raid (aka The Raid: Redemption) is a hybrid between your standard crime film and a martial arts escapade with a story semi-reminiscent of Dredd: an elite police team stages a raid on an apartment building controlled by a crime lord, but things go horribly wrong about six floors up, and the team is forced to fight their way out and struggle for survival as the crime lord’s henchmen descend upon them,