Director: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Riccardo Scamarcio and Laurence Fishburne
The original John Wick was the sleeper hit of 2014. It looked to be just another Keanu Reeves paycheque movie but it turned out to be a sleek action thrill ride. Now John Wick is back out of retirement (that didn’t last long) to settle some unfinished scores.
John Wick: Chapter 2 picks up just a few days after the events of John Wick. John (Reeves) has dealt with all of his enemies who foolishly killed his dog and now just wants to return to his retirement from being a professional assassin. A debt from the past comes back to haunt him and drags him back into the world of contract killers. He’ll have to contend with rival hitman (Common) and ruthless crime lords (Scarmarco and Fishburne) if he ever wants to find peace.
The best thing about Chapter 2 is what was so great about the original: the action. Stahelski, former stuntman turned director, uses his insider knowledge in framing the action beautifully and imaginatively. There is no shaky cam or quick cuts, so the audience is never confused when things start to hit the fan.
What allows this clear action is Reeves’ ability to perform the stunts; his inadequacy never has to be hidden. If you want an entertaining way to spend a few minutes, look up videos of Reeves’ training for the John Wick movies, you will be blown away.
The other thing that has improved from the first movie is the way the world within the film is built. The first movie introduced us to an underground society that deals in gold coins, has sacred rules and a sanctuary hotel called the Continental. Everything about it was mysterious, elegant and — above all else — cool. All of these elements return in Chapter 2 and even more are added. The whole scope of the world is widened and more intricately woven, leaving a lot of room for possible sequels to play in.
The only thing in which this sequel falters is the emotional investment. In John Wick, John had a clear and visceral motive when — spoilers! — his dog was killed.
This also served to get the audience fully on John’s side during his rampage and painted a clear target for his/our anger. But in Chapter 2, his emotional motivation is much more nebulous.
Sure, he wants to just go back to his retirement and the bad guys do get in the way of that, but you never feel as attached to his crusade this time around, and it's murky what the end-game is going to be.
So while John Wick: Chapter 2 doesn’t have as much of investing motive as the original, it does do what all great sequels should do and ratchets up the action while expanding the world.