John Wick: Chapter 2 is directed by Chad Stahelski and stars Keanu Reeves, Ruby Rose, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Common, and Laurence Fishburne.
We all love action movies. For decades, they’ve created some of the most iconic moments in all of cinematic history, and are beloved and cherished by many. However, it can be argued that the action genre is incredibly oversaturated in modern cinema, full of explosions, horrendous performances, bland characters, and convoluted narratives. The same terms apply with their sequels, which it seems nowadays are pumped out at a practically endless rate. Director Chad Stahelski yet again defies these odds with not only another tremendous action film but an excellent sequel with John Wick: Chapter 2.
What I loved most about the first John Wick was its incredible tonal balance. It knew exactly when to be a mindless, fun, gunslinging action romp and exactly when to tidy up and show its maturity, with good writing, a solid and engaging story, and a surprising amount of excellent worldbuilding. John Wick: Chapter 2 keeps the tradition alive by achieving these ideas just as well as it’s predecessor, and sets up what might very well turn into a solid trilogy. The solid writing and ever-expanding universe of hitmen (and women) help to construct a genuine and intriguing narrative, despite Wick’s motivations not being as straightforward this time around. The returning actors from the previous cast are just as good for the next chapter, and the newcomers to the roster, most notably Common and Fishburne, bring a new energy and exuberance that the first film couldn’t quite reach with it’s cast of only one or two standouts. Basically, all the good actors from the first film are back mixed with new actors who are just as good. Reeves himself again shines in this role, with a demanding physical presence and stunts that are somehow even better than the masterclass display in the first film. I cannot praise the stuntwork in this film enough, it made for such entertaining and expertly crafted action sequences that now make me see household items (specifically no.2 pencils) in new ways.
This film is to be praised because of its loyalty to the original’s successful formula without simultaneously being repetitive… but that’s not the case everywhere. The first act contains a lot of scenarios and dialogue that not only feel similar, but instead are completely identical to the first movie. This felt rather jarring and even took me out of the experience for a bit (alongside the return of some goofier lines of dialogue.) In addition, despite its well-filled 2-hour run time, there were multiple points at the end of the third act where I thought the film was fit to end, but instead, it kept going. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the film, but when it happens multiple times it starts to become a recurring flaw. Finally, the conclusion to the end fight in this film made absolutely no sense to me at first, despite my welcoming of it when the film concluded (setting up a potential third movie rather perfectly, might I add.)
While not as good as the first film, John Wick: Chapter 2 is still a gem in a sea of asinine and less-than-mediocre action films nowadays. It took an already great character and the world he lives in to new levels and sets the terms for what could be a hell of a conclusion to a trilogy. John Wick: Chapter 2 is most excellent (anyone get this reference?) and gets a B.