I was so pumped to watch John Wick: Chapter 2. Action movies today tend to be underwhelming a lot of the time. Whether its the cookie cutter approach to the story, the bad camera work, the unlikable protagonist, or all of the above, a lot of pure action films fail to deliver. Then in 2014, a little movie directed by 2 former stuntmen that wanted to showcase their passion for the genre, brought us John Wick. A movie that embraced the simplicity of action movies, while giving us some of the best action sequences in recent memory. It was a movie that caught everyone by surprise, and now that a sequel is here, that element of the movie is gone. Would the movie still have the same effect? Could it possibly be better? Well let’s see.
John Wick: Chapter 2 starts off not long after the events of the first movie. He’s avenged the people who killed his dog and stole his car, and now that he has a new dog he is ready to get on with his retirement. Of course that doesn’t happen and he’s forced right back into this world that he so desperately wants to get away from. The opening shot of the movie gives you everything you need to know about what you’re going to see. For a couple of seconds you can see a Buster Keaton movie projected on the corner of a building. For those who don’t know Buster Keaton, he was an actor back in the 1920’s through the 1940’s who was known for his physical acting, specifically comedy. Some of the things he was able to do, especially for his time, was incredible. If I had to pick a modern day actor to compare to him I would say it’s Jackie Chan. It’s used as an obvious parallel to Keanu Reeves doing a lot of physical acting in this movie. After watching it I can understand why.
Let’s talk about Keanu Reeves. In short, he’s fantastic in this role. Having this character who has very limited dialogue, yet is still able to show emotion non-verbally, makes John Wick the perfect character for Keanu Reeves to play. He does get a lot more physical in this movie too. The way he’s able to glide through the scenes and do the large majority of the fighting himself is mind blowing.
What I will say about the acting as a whole is that everyone has their dial turned up a little bit. Everyone is told to be a bit over the top and they ride that line in glorious fashion. None of them do it better than mister Laurence Fishburne though. He’s not in the movie much, but the way he carries himself and delivers his lines was so much fun to watch.Seeing him and Keanu Reeves on the same screen again was just too cool. The Matrix is still my favorite action movie of all time so I can appreciate that bit of fan service.
Along with Fishburne, the other new additions included Ruby Rose, Common, and Riccardo Scamarcio. Riccardo plays the main villain in this film and he is pretty much your cliche evil guy. There’s really nothing special about him. Ruby Rose plays his main bodyguard and is equally as bland. Common is pretty cool as a hitman who is almost John Wick’s equal. Their relationship and especially their fights together were pretty sweet. Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, and John Leguizamo all reprise their role from the original film and are equally as good here.
The characters in John Wick: Chapter 2 may not be the most fleshed out, but they serve the purpose of expanding the lore of this world. The subtle world building was one of my favorite aspects of the first John Wick film, so I wanted to see more of it here. Luckily, we get plenty of scenes and plot points that help flesh out this ever expanding world of underground hitmen. The continental is back and they dive into more of its rules and consequences for breaking those rules. This effort to create a setting that works like a character in itself is one of the ways this franchise separates itself from others.
There are also those action sequences I mentioned earlier. WOW! This stunt team deserves a lot of credit for what they were able to accomplish here. The action set pieces were an action movie fan’s wet dream. The fight choreography shined and their use of “gun fu” was brilliantly implemented. It wasn’t just the stunts alone though. It was the willingness to let a camera shot sit instead of using unnecessary cuts. I said it in my review of the first movie and i’ll say it again. The difference between this movie and a lot of others is that the director has enough confidence in the talent of the people in front of the camera to let the scenes play out. The shots are presented clearly so the audience can really understand what’s going on. The hand to hand combat sequence with Keanu and Common is a good example of this. They both went through some pretty crazy training to get in shape for the movie and it shows. They even got to use some “knife fu” in the movie (The director likes to use these type of terms). Chad Stalehski is proving himself to be a great director.
Overall, I love John Wick: Chapter 2. With a sequel that lived up to expectations it’s easy to say that John Wick has now reached that level of elite action movie franchises. I think the way they’re keeping these movies focused is going to pay off if they plan on making more of them down the line. There was no attempt to add unnecessary story elements. The film’s plot never becomes contrived at all and it flows so beautifully. It’s also a very fast paced movie. John Wick never gets a minute to rest and because of that, the audience doesn’t either. Even between the fights there is enough world building to not only hold you over until the fighting begins again, but also leaves you wanting more of it. If you’re someone (like me) who is tired of the overly done CGI fights with bad editing, then this beautifully shot movie with mostly practical effects is right up your alley. It’s a worthy sequel that manages to trump the original.
John Wick: Chapter 2 gets a 96/100 and is awarded the title of …