John Wick: Chapter 2 takes place shortly after the events of the first film, where John Wick finally believes he can take a rest and be done with the hitman lifestyle. That all changes when he gets a visit from the crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), whom he owes a favor for bound by a blood oath. Once again John gets wrapped back up into the world of hitmen and assassins, now with every hired gun in NYC hot on his trail.
John Wick: Chapter 2 devotes quite a lot of time building up the character of John Wick. We constantly see montages showing off how much fear John Wick instills into gangsters and other hitmen. Putting it simply, John Wick is just pure awesomeness. I even think it’s safe to say that John Wick is the modern day John McClane. He’s a bad ass antihero with a sense of humor and clever fighting style. In fact, the opening scene of the film acts as a great appetizer for the audience to see the fighting skills and sheer power that John Wick has. The first thirty minutes is just one continuous killing spree Wick goes on because a group of gangsters stole his car.
Keanu Reeves as John Wick was a beyond excellent casting choice. We get to see even more expression and emotion from Reeves than in the first John Wick, with many more lines of dialogue as well. Now, it’s no secret that I have never really been a fan of Keanu Reeves. I think that oftentimes his acting is dull and emotionless. However, his performances in John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 give me reason to believe I’ve misjudged Reeves as an actor. I think the character of Wick fits Reeves’s style of acting well, making for one great performance.
The film effectively builds its own world of assassins that is more vast and extensive than the previous John Wick film. We get to learn about the considerably large network of hitmen across New York City and the ins and outs of the profession. There is one scene where the audience gets to see all the connections that John Wick has around the city, as well as how many hitmen there actually are in NYC. One other big addition to the film is the idea of blood oaths and certain codes that hitmen and assassins must live by and honor. Many films that establish a clear set of rules like this tend to shy away from them at some point, but not John Wick: Chapter 2. Once it establishes the rules, the film never breaks them, which is something I admire.
The action scenes have this euphoric flow to them. They are fast, creative, excessive in violence, and sometimes funny in a morbid sort of way. There is one seen in particular where John Wick is having a shootout with another hitman as they walk through a crowd. They each take turns passively firing shots at one another, doing their best not to be noticed by others. Many people were giggling in the theater at this comedic exchange in gunshots. Another great action scene involves a fist fight John Wick has with the same hitman, except this time they both fall down three flights of concrete stairs during their scuffle. This was filmed in such a slow and drawn out fashion that, again, I believe was supposed to be funny in a dark way.
One possible problem that John Wick: Chapter 2 has is the same issue many action films like struggle with, an invincible protagonists. When you have the protagonist go through as much physical strain as Wick (like getting hit by a car on three separate occasions), it strains the audience’s suspension of disbelief. While we do see the strength of our antihero falter as the film progresses (similar to John McClane in Die Hard), it never really feels like he’s in imminent danger. This was by far the biggest issue people had with the film as I left the theater and I completely understand. Overall I think I was a little more forgiving than others towards this issue, mostly because of the nature of the genre and my love for Wick as a character.
The film is filled with dark scenery and a lot of bright neon lighting (as well as other forms of artificial lights). These, compounded with the unique use of subtitles, gives the John Wick movies a very distinct style. A style that I happen to enjoy quite a lot.
Both John Wick films are outstanding, one of a kind action movies. However, the character of John Wick is what I find truly remarkable about this film. In my opinion, Wick is one of the best action film protagonists in many years. John Wick: Chapter 2 has plenty of cool characters (including a great cameo by Laurence Fishburne), great action scenes, and a uniquely crafted world to make for an adrenaline filled experience. I strongly recommend for fans of stylized action films to go ahead and check out John Wick: Chapter 2 for themselves.
The Verdict: A