Release Date: February 10th, 2017
Cast: Keanue Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, Ian McShane, and John Leguizamo
Director: Chad Stahelski
Studio: Thunder Road Pictures, 87Eleven Productions
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Genre: Neo-noir Action Thriller
The surprising action flick of 2014, John Wick, saw Keanu Reeves getting back into black and decimating his foes whether through gunplay or martial arts. The sequel, shot again by director/stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski, finds our hero again navigating the mysterious criminal world and looking damn good doing.
John Wick Chapter 2 begins with our boy Wick hunting down his stolen car from the first flick. He’s avenged the other wrongs and now he wants to get that back. Shortly thereafter a man from his past returns and drags him back into the world of assassins he’d tried so desperately to flee.
What follows is more of what we loved of the first one. Fast paced action, realistic and brutal gunfights, and dope as all hell close quarters combat all performed by the coolest looking bunch of assassins ever. Seriously, each character has at least a dozen tattoos, most on their necks and hands. They all ooze cool. It is ridiculous.
Spread throughout the film are a number of side characters, rival assassins, or businessmen in their world and each is stylish, a bursting personality and could no doubt be the focus of their own stories. People like the busking violin player assassin, the sumo assassin, the homeless assassin gangs. That sort of thing. They all have panache and it works well.
Throughout the course of the movie we find out only a little bit more of the details of that strange assassin world from the first. The Rules, the Continental, the businesses, the gold coin payments. None of that is explored much further and instead more new tidbits are added. The High Table, Markers, Wards. The movie continues the dope unclear world building of the first all while being jam packed with action, which might almost be the flaw of the film?
Once the movie gets going, and it doesn’t take long believe me, it never lets up. And while that fits this movie perfectly, at a certain point the action begins to feel the same. John Wick knows the most efficient ways to murder his enemies, and often the most efficient way is the same across the board (go figure) and that ends up making the later scenes feel less cool.
They break it up occasionally with more interesting scenery and that sort of thing but it does eventually get to the point of ‘grapple, toss, gun, gun, roll away,’ rinse, repeat. While at the beginning its all great, as the movie goes on you might sense that drag too.
The only other flaw with the flick is that it lacks the heart of the original. If you haven’t seen John Wick yet, spoiler warning. That movie’s inciting incident is the loss of his puppy and the emotional ties he had with it. This movie does not have the same heart unfortunately, and by the end it’s very clear John Wick is back in this world and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. That makes the showdowns less satisfying in many ways.
John Wick Chapter 2 is a fine successor and a solid middle entry in what will no doubt continue to be a franchise. If you loved the first one, there’s a lot more for you to enjoy in that world, but don’t expect it to be worlds better unfortunately.