Art History in “John Wick: Chapter Two”

I finally got my chance to watch the sequel to a movie that led to one of my most clicked on blog entries.

This movie is what happens when art history majors film a gangland drama.

Why do I say this?

What happens when you combine James Turrell and Enter the Dragon.

In the blog entry on the first film, I mused on how the story came off as a generational clash between the old and new classes of assassins and Wick stayed above the conflict.  In this movie?  That generational clash whose lines drawn so clear in the first film blurred in the second.  Suddenly, the old generation lives on shaky ground, but at the same time, the new generation has trouble maintaining a hold.  It especially does not help that the sequel depicts the new generation as reckless and dishonorable with their greedy ambition to take down Wick, a man who just wants to live comfortably by himself.

While in retirement, Wick finds himself forced into making a coup by the ambitious Italian crime boss Santino. The crime boss, amusingly, works in a museum that acts as a front for his operation.  Called “The New Modern NYC”, he works among a plethora of art that represents his criminal underworld.  One room has art representing the gods of Greek/Italian antiquity.  Of course, Italian gods were Greek gods under different names.

This obviously represents the goals and ambitions that he ropes Wick in.  The art in that room intrigued me.  The marble sculptures depicting Antiquity era gods had this clean finish that one typically sees in Neoclassical sculpture.  When Wick heads off to Rome, Italy, that collection of sculpture’s clean look becomes more obvious.  The film’s depiction of Rome is loving, but it acknowledges it as the Old World.

The only non-Greek/Italian sculpture is a South Asian sculpture of a multi-armed God that looms over Winston (the owner of the New York Continental) and Santino.  There, Winston attempts to tell Santino to stop his foolish behavior and warn him about Wick.

Finally, the art most shown prominently in the film depicts beings of divine mythological status.  I’m probably not the first one to notice this.  These works were obviously meant to parallel the rather larger than life characters who constantly battle each other for dominance.  While Santino has his Neoclassical collection, Winston, the New York Continental owner has Art Nouveau style sculpture depicting divine beings that frame a meeting he has.  Amusingly, Peter Stormare’s Russian mobster character is the only one who does not have art depicting divine beings, only landscapes.  Ergo, he does not have interest in fighting Wick or desire power.

During the scene where Wick confronts Santino at his museum, I noticed that Santino has a reproduction of Perseus Slaying Medusa.  While an obvious reference to Wick’s goal to take down Santino, I wonder if that was a reproduction, or did Santino have it moved from its installation in Florence.

While entertaining, I admit I did not enjoy it as much as the first film.  The sequel felt a little bloated compared to the first film’s streamlined story and fresh looking appearance.

Click on this review to learn about the art found in the film

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