In 2014, “John Wick” came as a defibrillator shock to the action movie genre. It managed to feel fresh and exciting by subverting many of the tropes of the genre that had, at that point, become stale.
The much-welcome sequel, “John Wick: Chapter Two,” has arrived to deliver more of what was so loved about the first one.
Keanu Reeves plays the titular character yet again. Wick is a former hitman, forced back into action after the untimely death of his wife. He’s a man whose past is shrouded in mystery.
What made the first movie so good was the way it handled the setup. Where most filmmakers would spend large amounts of time with flashbacks and exposition to deliver the story, these movies barrel down the track like there’s a jet engine strapped to them. The audience is expected to keep up.
This leaves plenty of time for the good stuff: the action. And “Chapter 2” has plenty of it. Director Chad Stahelski knows how a good action scene works. This film is filled with exciting moments where great set pieces meet masterful stunt work to create something downright musical.
The love for the craft is evident in the carefully placed eye the camera gives you, allowing you to see clearly every time Reeves is punched, kicked, or even slammed with a car. And that is Reeves you’re seeing. He handled the vast majority of his own stunts.
Like any great piece of music, “Chapter 2” quiets down and takes a breather now and again to allow the story to progress. The sequel explores one of the most interesting pieces of the original’s lore: the seedy underground world of assassins and hitmen.
This can be where the film often falters, as the scope of the world comes across as silly and unbelievable in the film’s third act.
At no time was I really ever concerned for Wick’s safety either. Whenever he got into a fight I knew that he’d win, because the lore told me so. Wick is just the best at what he does. Period.
In a way, the filmmakers made an effort to address this criticism. Wick’s motivation in the first film was purely emotional. In this one, the stakes are not so much Wick’s life as they are his honor and place in his world.
But as a result, the story of this one is all around weaker. Wick isn’t fighting because he’s driven to, but because he’s being forced to.
Fans of the first film are in for a treat with this one. It delivers more grade-A, adrenaline pumping action and builds upon the first in a meaningful way.