Welcome to Commentary Commentary, our long-running series of articles exploring the things we can learn from the most interesting filmmaker commentaries available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Most action sequels are a step down from their originals. John Wick: Chapter 2 is not most action sequels. It’s that rare bird like The Raid 2, Police Story 2, and Lethal Weapon 2 that matches its original greatness beat for beat while building an even bigger world around its main character(s).
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for John Wick: Chapter 2.
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
Commentators: Chad Stahelski (director), Keanu Reeves (actor)
1. Thunder Road is Basil Iwanyk’s production company, and they’re the ones who first brought the character of John Wick to Reeves.
2. The score in the opening chase is meant to differentiate between the “big shark” that is Wick’s Chevelle and the “little fish” of the motorcycle he’s chasing.
3. NYC wouldn’t allow the opening chase down 5th Ave, so they filmed it in Montreal instead. The end of the chase returns to New York.
4. They filmed the car/motorcycle impact by launching the cycle into the car with a dummy atop it. The same setup is used for the cycle that flips after hitting Wick’s open car door. It’s an in-camera stunt most films farm out to CG or jumbled editing.
5. Reeves brought Peter Stormare into the film to play brother to the first film’s big bad. “We were actually hanging out,” says Reeves, “he loved the first one, and he said [in a rough Peter Stormare meets Count Dracula accent] ‘What can I do?'”
6. They initially had the cars in the warehouse without car covers, but Reeves felt confident that Wick would know the silhouette of his own car.
7. The first take of that “flying drift” out the warehouse doors destroyed the car.
8. They recognized they could have had Wick chasing after his daughter or his cat, but they wanted something a bit more mythical and settled on the marker idea.
9. The film starts less than a week after the first one ends.
10. Reeves asks “what happened to that shot?” regarding the bit with Wick walking across the bridge at 26:48, and Stahelski says, “I think we had some problems with some stuff we weren’t supposed to see, so we had to kind of push in a little bit.”
11. The museum sequence was filmed at Rome’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, “and we’re still shocked that they let us shoot there.” “God bless them,” adds Reeves. Many of the paintings are duplicates while the real ones were safely kept in the basement.
12. The High Table “will play a much bigger role in John Wick 3.” Stahelski also wants to see both Lance Reddick and John Leguizamo wield some weaponry next time around.
13. The idea to include a scene in a secret bank run by Hassidic Jews originated after eating at a kosher steakhouse during the first film’s production. They struck up a conversation with some of the Hassidic clientele and decided to include them in a possible sequel. “As long as we’re bankers,” they replied.
14. Composer Tyler Bates cameos as the guitar player on stage in Rome.
15. Common lobbied hard for a role in the sequel after loving the first film and even flew himself to Los Angeles for fight training.
16. There was apparently much debate over whether or not Wick actually needs to shoot Gianno D’Antonio (Claudia Gerini) even after she’s sliced her own wrists. They fought for it though because “in order to fulfill what you need to do you have to pull the trigger.”
17. They like making Wick suffer but acknowledge that his only real weakness is cars. “On his right side.”
18. The one question I was hoping they’d answer isn’t even touched upon here. Why does an elaborate, handmade suit with bullet-proof lining cost the same single coin as a single drink at the Continental bar? How does this economy function?!
19. Stahelski’s wife, Heidi Moneymaker, is an accomplished stuntwoman in her own right, and here she doubles for Ares (Ruby Rose) and plays the killer violinist.
20. They agree that one of the secrets to John Wick violence is to start with something funny, end with something funny, and fill the in-between with as much brutality as they can muster.
21. Part of the big action sequence that sees Wick encountering numerous assassins as well as Cassian (Common) was shot at the PATH Center in the Freedom Tower. This was the first film to shoot there.
22. They refer to working with the Wachowskis on The Matrix trilogy as “the Harvard of film schools.”
23. Reeves meets up with Laurence Fishburne a few times each year, and on one of those meetings the elder actor mentioned his love for John Wick. They got a script for the sequel to him shortly thereafter, and the actor replied that same day saying simply “I’m in. Fish.”
24. The white pigeon in the Bowery King’s (Fishburne) hands was snatched by a hawk later in the day during the scene where they release the birds. Reeves is not happy to hear this saying “Oh my gosh. It’s an urban jungle. Danger everywhere.”
25. The fancy party scene in the third act takes place in NYC but was filmed back in Rome at a museum. The floor resembling broken mirrors is basically that and has become something of a “living art” installation. It was put in crack-free, but visitors walking on it since it opened have left it cracked and continually refracting light in different ways. “What?” says an incredulous Reeves.
26. The big museum shootout is scored to Vivaldi’s “Summer” but in a “recomposed” version to match up with the gunshots’ percussion.
27. Reeves thinks his barricade technique is terrible.
28. The mirror room sequence, an acknowledged nod to Enter the Dragon, was the film’s most expensive set-piece.
29. “You can definitely tell we studied graphic novels,” says Stahelski. “Noo,” adds Reeves, “but cinemaaaa.”
30. Stahelski tries to end the commentary shortly after the end credits start, but Reeves is having none of it. They go on to compliment and point out members of the crew before promising they’ll be back for a third film.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“You gotta at least garrote one person per movie.”
“John likes his car.”
“We wanted to be a pretty action movie.”
“We’re bringing back the turtleneck.”
“How many movies you can shoot a guy on stage and the crowd cheers?”
“These are the worst bodyguards ever.”
“That’s the ‘fuck you’ chamber check.”
Best in Context-Free Keanu Reeves Commentary Said As Only Keanu Reeves Can
“Tears on the window.”
“John’s putting it back… into the floorboard.”
“John Wick doesn’t want to do it!”
“Ladies and gentlemen… Fishburne.”
“The mirror room.”
“The rain. Alone. Nothing.”
John Wick: Chapter 2 is a fantastic action movie and a brilliant sequel that expands the world of the original film in fascinating ways while retaining the elements that work beautifully. Reeves and Stahelski are a great and energetic listen as their appreciation for each other’s talents as well as for the action magic they’ve created is entertaining to hear. It’s clear they understand the value of detailed preparation when it comes to action film-making, and one hopes that other action directors will heed their advice. It’s a great listen. Now bring on John Wick: Chapter 3!