The first “John Wick” was without a doubt one of the greatest pleasant surprises in recent film history. The action was amazing, Keanu Reeves was the perfect lead, the story was simple, and it was a stunning film to look at. “John Wick” was simple but had a deep-rooted mythology that was shockingly fun to get invested in. The trailer came out barely a month before it’s release and became that little action movie that could. Now only two years removed from that impressive and infinitely watchable movie we arrive at “John Wick: Chapter 2”. Action movie sequels are a tricky thing. There are many decent ones, a lot of bad ones, and very few of them match or exceed their original films (then again that’s true for sequels in almost any form of media and genre). I was hoping this would be more “Die Hard with A Vengeance” and not “Speed 2”.
“John Wick: Chapter 2” though is once again another surprise. The surprise this time? I believe “John Wick: Chapter 2” is better than the original. “John Wick: Chapter 2” takes everything we loved from the first movie and brings it back then elevates and improves upon it. This is truly one of the best action movie experiences I’ve had in the past few years. This is everything that a modern action film is capable of being.
The story wasn’t the most important element of the original “Wick” adventure and it isn’t here either. That being said this second blood-soaked tale has more of a story. The first movie was simple, bad guys steal his car and kill Wick’s puppy and now he is out for revenge. The revenge story was clichéd but well executed. It didn’t need to be deep and complex; the mythology of the world made it unique enough and the style and action were the beating heart of the movie. Here though the movie does broaden the scope of the story. The motivation isn’t just simple revenge (although there is an element of that); the actions Wick is forced to take brings the wrath of other third parties in the story. These extra variables really do add another layer to the plot. Outside of that, the assassin mythology is greatly expanded upon. The hotel returns and you’re given a lot more of the culture which is surprisingly layered and very graphic novel in nature. I said this after the first movie (and the same is true) I would watch a movie just about the society created in these movies.
But the biggest draw to this movie is the action….and wow does that not disappoint. This movie has some of the best action sequences possibly ever put to screen. I would have to sit on that statement but I can comfortably say that it’s some of the best of this young century The filmmakers take the fight sequences from the first movie and crank it up to 11. The action sequences are long, so well-choreographed, intense, and you can see it all. The gunshots rattle the sound system, the punches make your heart beat faster, and the pencils make you cringe (yes there is a scene where Wick uses a pencil and you can imagine what might happen there). The action doesn’t feel like a repeat of the first one. It has familiar beats but it sure does elevate and refine what came before. Wick meets far more challenges in this movie than the last one. Wick faces more than just a bunch of random henchmen. He goes up against his equals. He takes far more punishment which made the movie far more engaging for me. He still gets off more headshots than characters on “The Walking Dead” do but people like Common (who doesn’t get as much screen time as he should) give Wick a run for his money.
Returning director Chad Stahelski directs one hell of a movie. Taking aside the absolute incredible action he directs (and coming from his stunt background it’s not surprising) the one thing that this movie doesn’t get enough credit for is how beautiful it is. Him along with director of photography Dan Laustsen, and the production designer, Kevin Kavanaugh, have created a visually stunning film. This is stylish and floods your eyes with beautiful visuals. The way these “Wick” films use colors is nothing short of brilliant.
I’ve seen many claims that the “John Wick” is a throwback to 80s and 90s action films. I have to reject this notion and statement. I don’t say this to degrade those action films, I love those eras, but this is a pure contemporary action movie. There isn’t many out there quite like it even with its recycled plot. The style of the movie gives it its own unique flavor. This is exciting, thrilling, emotionally engaging and a refinement of the first one while staying completely true to its roots. Keanu Reeves is still the perfect action hero for this series (only he can deliver those lines a certain type of way with that amount of charm), the newcomers are awesome (people like Ruby Rose and Common are perfect for the series). This is everything a modern action film should strive to be. I want to see it again and I might. “John Wick: Chapter 2” is incredible.